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Phenotypic plasticity as a cause and consequence of population dynamics

Brass, D. P., Cobbold, C. A., Ewing, D. A., Purse, B. V., Callaghan, A. and White, S. M. (2021) Phenotypic plasticity as a cause and consequence of population dynamics. Ecology Letters, 24 (11). pp. 2406-2417. ISSN 1461-0248

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/ele.13862


Predicting complex species-environment interactions is crucial for guiding con- servation 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 ef- fects 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 in- dividuals 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 dy- namics. Applying the framework to the classical example of Nicholson's blowflies, we show how seemingly sensible predictions made from environment–trait rela- tionships 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:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:102919


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