Phenotypic plasticity as a cause and consequence of population dynamics

Brass, Dominic P.; Cobbold, Christina A.; Ewing, David A.; Purse, Bethan V. ORCID:; Callaghan, Amanda; White, Steven M. ORCID: 2021 Phenotypic plasticity as a cause and consequence of population dynamics. Ecology Letters, 24 (11). 2406-2417.

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Predicting complex species-environment interactions is crucial for guiding conservation and mitigation strategies in a dynamically changing world. Phenotypic plasticity is a mechanism of trait variation that determines how individuals and populations adapt to changing and novel environments. For individuals, the effects of phenotypic plasticity can be quantified by measuring environment–trait relationships, but it is often difficult to predict how phenotypic plasticity affects populations. The assumption that environment–trait relationships validated for individuals indicate how populations respond to environmental change is commonly made without sufficient justification. Here we derive a novel general mathematical framework linking trait variation due to phenotypic plasticity to population dynamics. Applying the framework to the classical example of Nicholson's blowflies, we show how seemingly sensible predictions made from environment–trait relationships do not generalise to population responses. As a consequence, trait-based analyses that do not incorporate population feedbacks risk mischaracterising the effect of environmental change on populations.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1461-023X
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: carry-over effects, competition, delay-differential equations, developmental plasticity, environmental change, phenotypic plasticity, population dynamics, reaction norms, stage-structured modelling, trait variation
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 12 Oct 2021 16:02 +0 (UTC)

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