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      Climate change and evolutionary adaptation

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      Nature

      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Evolutionary adaptation can be rapid and potentially help species counter stressful conditions or realize ecological opportunities arising from climate change. The challenges are to understand when evolution will occur and to identify potential evolutionary winners as well as losers, such as species lacking adaptive capacity living near physiological limits. Evolutionary processes also need to be incorporated into management programmes designed to minimize biodiversity loss under rapid climate change. These challenges can be met through realistic models of evolutionary change linked to experimental data across a range of taxa.

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          Most cited references 62

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          Climate change and evolution: disentangling environmental and genetic responses.

          Rapid climate change is likely to impose strong selection pressures on traits important for fitness, and therefore, microevolution in response to climate-mediated selection is potentially an important mechanism mitigating negative consequences of climate change. We reviewed the empirical evidence for recent microevolutionary responses to climate change in longitudinal studies emphasizing the following three perspectives emerging from the published data. First, although signatures of climate change are clearly visible in many ecological processes, similar examples of microevolutionary responses in literature are in fact very rare. Second, the quality of evidence for microevolutionary responses to climate change is far from satisfactory as the documented responses are often - if not typically - based on nongenetic data. We reinforce the view that it is as important to make the distinction between genetic (evolutionary) and phenotypic (includes a nongenetic, plastic component) responses clear, as it is to understand the relative roles of plasticity and genetics in adaptation to climate change. Third, in order to illustrate the difficulties and their potential ubiquity in detection of microevolution in response to natural selection, we reviewed the quantitative genetic studies on microevolutionary responses to natural selection in the context of long-term studies of vertebrates. The available evidence points to the overall conclusion that many responses perceived as adaptations to changing environmental conditions could be environmentally induced plastic responses rather than microevolutionary adaptations. Hence, clear-cut evidence indicating a significant role for evolutionary adaptation to ongoing climate warming is conspicuously scarce.
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            Keeping up with a warming world; assessing the rate of adaptation to climate change.

            The pivotal question in the debate on the ecological effects of climate change is whether species will be able to adapt fast enough to keep up with their changing environment. If we establish the maximal rate of adaptation, this will set an upper limit to the rate at which temperatures can increase without loss of biodiversity. The rate of adaptation will primarily be set by the rate of microevolution since (i) phenotypic plasticity alone is not sufficient as reaction norms will no longer be adaptive and hence microevolution on the reaction norm is needed, (ii) learning will be favourable to the individual but cannot be passed on to the next generations, (iii) maternal effects may play a role but, as with other forms of phenotypic plasticity, the response of offspring to the maternal cues will no longer be adaptive in a changing environment, and (iv) adaptation via immigration of individuals with genotypes adapted to warmer environments also involves microevolution as these genotypes are better adapted in terms of temperature, but not in terms of, for instance, photoperiod.Long-term studies on wild populations with individually known animals play an essential role in detecting and understanding the temporal trends in life-history traits, and to estimate the heritability of, and selection pressures on, life-history traits. However, additional measurements on other trophic levels and on the mechanisms underlying phenotypic plasticity are needed to predict the rate of microevolution, especially under changing conditions. Using this knowledge on heritability of, and selection on, life-history traits, in combination with climate scenarios, we will be able to predict the rate of adaptation for different climate scenarios. The final step is to use ecoevolutionary dynamical models to make the link to population viability and from there to biodiversity loss for those scenarios where the rate of adaptation is insufficient.
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              Towards an Integrated Framework for Assessing the Vulnerability of Species to Climate Change

              Climate change is a major threat to global biodiversity. A novel integrated framework to assess vulnerability and prioritize research and management action aims to improve our ability to respond to this emerging crisis.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                February 2011
                February 23 2011
                February 2011
                : 470
                : 7335
                : 479-485
                Article
                10.1038/nature09670
                21350480
                © 2011

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