Limited evolutionary rescue of locally adapted populations facing climate change

Katja Schiffers*, Elizabeth C. Bourne, Sebastien Lavergne, Wilfried Thuiller, Justin M. J. Travis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Dispersal is a key determinant of a population's evolutionary potential. It facilitates the propagation of beneficial alleles throughout the distributional range of spatially outspread populations and increases the speed of adaptation. However, when habitat is heterogeneous and individuals are locally adapted, dispersal may, at the same time, reduce fitness through increasing maladaptation. Here, we use a spatially explicit, allelic simulation model to quantify how these equivocal effects of dispersal affect a population's evolutionary response to changing climate. Individuals carry a diploid set of chromosomes, with alleles coding for adaptation to non-climatic environmental conditions and climatic conditions, respectively. Our model results demonstrate that the interplay between gene flow and habitat heterogeneity may decrease effective dispersal and population size to such an extent that substantially reduces the likelihood of evolutionary rescue. Importantly, even when evolutionary rescue saves a population from extinction, its spatial range following climate change may be strongly narrowed, that is, the rescue is only partial. These findings emphasize that neglecting the impact of non-climatic, local adaptation might lead to a considerable overestimation of a population's evolvability under rapid environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20120083
Number of pages10
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1610
Early online date3 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2013


  • phenotypic plasticity
  • rapid adaptation
  • dispersal
  • migration load
  • gene flow
  • annual plant
  • habitat heterogeneity
  • natural-selection
  • allelic model
  • adaptation
  • global change
  • species range
  • gene-flow
  • arabidopsis-thaliana


Dive into the research topics of 'Limited evolutionary rescue of locally adapted populations facing climate change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this