The Spatial Scale of Local Adaptation in a Stochastic Environment

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The distribution of phenotypes in space will be a compromise between adaptive plasticity and local adaptation increasing the fit of phenotypes to local conditions and gene-flow reducing that fit. Theoretical models on the evolution of quantitative characters on spatially explicit landscapes have only considered scenarios where optimum trait values change as deterministic functions of space. Here these models are extended to include stochastic spatially autocorrelated aspects to the environment, and consequently the optimal phenotype. Under these conditions the regression of phenotype on the environmental variable becomes steeper as the spatial scale on which populations are sampled becomes larger. Under certain deterministic models - such as linear clines - the regression is constant. The way in which the regression changes with spatial scale is informative about the degree of phenotypic plasticity, the relative scales of effective gene flow and the environmental dependency of selection. Connections to temporal models are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)780–788
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Early online date18 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Local Adaptation
  • Gene-flow
  • Stochastic Environments
  • Quantitative Genetics
  • Phenotypic Plasticity


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