Modeling framework and components from Evolution of plasticity and adaptive responses to climate change along climate gradients
2017-07-21T11:08:35Z (GMT) by
The relative contributions of phenotypic plasticity and adaptive evolution to the responses of species to recent and future climate change are poorly understood. We combine recent (1960–2010) climate and phenotypic data with microclimate, heat balance, demographic and evolutionary models to address this issue for a montane butterfly, <i>Colias eriphyle</i>, along an elevational gradient. Our focal phenotype, wing solar absorptivity, responds plastically to developmental (pupal) temperatures and plays a central role in thermoregulatory adaptation in adults. Here, we show that both the phenotypic and adaptive consequences of plasticity vary with elevation. Seasonal changes in weather generate seasonal variation in phenotypic selection on mean and plasticity of absorptivity, especially at lower elevations. In response to climate change in the past 60 years, our models predict evolutionary declines in mean absorptivity (but little change in plasticity) at high elevations, and evolutionary increases in plasticity (but little change in mean) at low elevation. The importance of plasticity depends on the magnitude of seasonal variation in climate relative to interannual variation. Our results suggest that selection and evolution of both trait means and plasticity can contribute to adaptive response to climate change in this system. They also illustrate how plasticity can facilitate rather than retard adaptive evolutionary responses to directional climate change in seasonal environments.