Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 1183–1190
Organisms time activities by using environmental cues to forecast the future availability of important resources. Presently, there is limited understanding of the relationships between cues and optimal timing, and especially about how this relationship will be affected by environmental changes. We develop a general model to explore the relation between a cue and the optimal timing of an important life history activity. The model quantifies the fitness loss for organisms failing to time behaviours optimally. We decompose the immediate change in fitness resulting from environmental changes into a component that is due to changes in the predictive power of the cue and a component that derives from the mismatch of the old response to the cue to the new environmental conditions. Our results show that consequences may range from negative, neutral to positive and are highly dependent on how cue and optimal timing and their relation are specifically affected by environmental changes.