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Biodiversity inhibits species’ evolutionary responses to changing environments

Authors

  • C. De Mazancourt,

    Corresponding author
    1. Redpath Museum, McGill University, 859 Sherbrooke St. W, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 2K6
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  • E. Johnson,

    1. Division of Biology and NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK
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  • T. G. Barraclough

    1. Division of Biology and NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK
    2. Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew TW9 3DS, UK
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*E-mail: claire.demazancourt@mcgill.ca

Abstract

Despite growing interplay between ecological and evolutionary studies, the question of how biodiversity influences evolutionary dynamics within species remains understudied. Here, using a classical model of phenotypic evolution in species occupying a patchy environment, but introducing global change affecting patch conditions, we show that biodiversity can inhibit species’ evolution during global change. The presence of several species increases the chance that one or more species are pre-adapted to new conditions, which restricts the ecological opportunity for evolutionary responses in all the species. Consequently, environmental change tends to select for changes in species abundances rather than for changing phenotypes within each species. The buffering effects of species diversity that we describe might be one important but neglected explanation for widely observed niche conservatism in natural systems. Furthermore, the results show that attempts to understand biotic responses to environmental change need to consider both ecological and evolutionary processes in a realistically diverse setting.

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