Niche construction through phenological plasticity: life history dynamics and ecological consequences


  • Kathleen Donohue

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    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 22 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
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Author for correspondence: Kathleen Donohue Tel: +1 (617) 384 9768 Fax: +1 (617) 495 9484 Email:


The ability of an organism to alter the environment that it experiences has been termed ‘niche construction’. Plants have several ways whereby they can determine the environment to which they are exposed at different life stages. This paper discusses three of these: plasticity in dispersal, flowering timing and germination timing. It reviews pathways through which niche construction alters evolutionary and ecological trajectories by altering the selective environment to which organisms are exposed, the phenotypic expression of plastic characters, and the expression of genetic variation. It provides examples whereby niche construction creates positive or negative feedbacks between phenotypes and environments, which in turn cause novel evolutionary constraints and novel life-history expression.