Evolvability meets biogeography: evolutionary potential decreases at high and low environmental favourability
Martinez Padilla, J
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
© 2017 The Author(s). Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.
Reason for embargo
Understanding and forecasting the effects of environmental change on wild populations requires knowledge on a critical question: Do populations have the ability to evolve in response to that change? However, our knowledge on how evolution works in wild conditions under different environmental circumstances is extremely limited. We investigated how environmental variation influences the evolutionary potential of phenotypic traits. We used published data to collect or calculate 135 estimates of evolvability of morphological traits of European wild bird populations. We characterised the environmental favourability of each population throughout the species’ breeding distribution. Our results suggest that the evolutionary potential of morphological traits decreases as environmental favourability becomes high or low. Strong environmental selection pressures and high intra-specific competition may reduce species’ evolutionary potential in low and high favourability areas, respectively. This suggests that species may be least able to adapt to new climate conditions at their range margins and at the centre. Our results underscore the need to consider the evolutionary potential of populations when studying the drivers of species distributions, particularly when predicting the effects of environmental change. We discuss the utility of integrating evolutionary dynamics into a biogeographical perspective to understand how environmental variation shapes evolutionary patterns. This approach would also produce more reliable predictions about the effect of environmental change on population persistence and therefore on biodiversity.
We acknowledge funding from the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (grants CGL2012-34685, CGL2015-70639-P, and CGL2016-76173-P) and thanks to the ERA-Net BiodivERsA, with the national funder FCT (Project: BIODIVERSA/0003/2011). AE has a contract funded by the project 1098/2014 (Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales, Spain).
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the Royal Society via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 284 (1856), article 20170516