U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Conservation Biology, Volume 25, No. 1, 56–63; DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01552.x


Climate change affects individual organisms by altering development, physiology, behavior, and fitness, and populations by altering genetic and phenotypic composition, vital rates, and dynamics. We sought to clarify how selection, phenotypic plasticity, and demography are linked in the context of climate change. On the basis of theory and results of recent empirical studies of plants and animals, we believe the ecological and evolutionary issues relevant to population persistence as climate changes are the rate, type, magnitude, and spatial pattern of climate-induced abiotic and biotic change; generation time and life history of the organism; extent and type of phenotypic plasticity; amount and distribution of adaptive genetic variation across space and time; dispersal potential; and size and connectivity of subpopulations. An understanding of limits to plasticity and evolutionary potential across traits, populations, and species and feedbacks between adaptive and demographic responses is lacking. Integrated knowledge of coupled ecological and evolutionary mechanisms will increase understanding of the resilience and probabilities of persistence of populations and species.