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. (doi: 10.1111/ele.13862) (PMID:34412157)

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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:Articles
Additional Information:DPB is funded by the NERC Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantitative and Modelling skills in Ecology and Evolution (QMEE), grant number NE/P012345/1, which is supervised by SMW, AC, CAC, BVP and DAE. DAE is funded by the Scottish Government's Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS). CC was supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship RF-2018-577/9. CC was partially supported by NERC (NE/T004193/1).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cobbold, Professor Christina and Ewing, Dr David
Authors: Brass, D. P., Cobbold, C. A., Ewing, D. A., Purse, B. V., Callaghan, A., and White, S. M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Mathematics and Statistics > Mathematics
Journal Name:Ecology Letters
ISSN (Online):1461-0248
Published Online:19 August 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Ecology Letters 24(11): 2406-2417
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
307517Landscape Decisions: Towards a new framework for using land assets programmeRichard ReeveNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/T004193/1M&S - Mathematics
302369Insect abundance and climate variability: Novel insights from homogenisationChristina CobboldLeverhulme Trust (LEVERHUL)RF-2018-577\9M&S - Mathematics