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  1. Abstract Background

    Pollinators impose strong selection on floral traits, but other abiotic and biotic agents also drive the evolution of floral traits and influence plant reproduction. Global change is expected to have widespread effects on biotic and abiotic systems, resulting in novel selection on floral traits in future conditions.


    Global change has depressed pollinator abundance and altered abiotic conditions, thereby exposing flowering plant species to novel suites of selective pressures. Here, we consider how biotic and abiotic factors interact to shape the expression and evolution of floral characteristics (the targets of selection), including floral size, colour, physiology, reward quantity and quality, and longevity, amongst other traits. We examine cases in which selection imposed by climatic factors conflicts with pollinator-mediated selection. Additionally, we explore how floral traits respond to environmental changes through phenotypic plasticity and how that can alter plant fecundity. Throughout this review, we evaluate how global change might shift the expression and evolution of floral phenotypes.


    Floral traits evolve in response to multiple interacting agents of selection. Different agents can sometimes exert conflicting selection. For example, pollinators often prefer large flowers, but drought stress can favour the evolution of smaller flowers, and the size of floral organs can evolve as a trade-off between selection mediated by these opposing actors. Nevertheless, few studies have manipulated abiotic and biotic agents of selection factorially to disentangle their relative strengths and directions of selection. The literature has more often evaluated plastic responses of floral traits to stressors than it has considered how abiotic factors alter selection on these traits. Global change will likely alter the selective landscape through changes in the abundance and community composition of mutualists and antagonists and novel abiotic conditions. We encourage future work to consider the effects of abiotic and biotic agents of selection on floral evolution, which will enable more robust predictions about floral evolution and plant reproduction as global change progresses.

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  2. With continually increasing summer temperatures and intense heat waves, it can be easy to neglect the ecological effects of winter climate change. However, shifts in the climate during winter can have profound consequences for eco-evolutionary dynamics in extratropical latitudes and high-elevation locales. Climate change has increased winter temperatures, disrupted snowpack, and reduced ice cover (Rixen et al., 2022). Extreme losses of snowpack are projected for many regions by the end of the century (Talsma et al., 2022). Patterns of climate change are complex and region dependent, but winters are becoming less reliable overall, with elevated temperatures and altered snow dynamics. In ecosystems with cold winters, many plant species require exposure to low, but not necessarily freezing, temperatures for a prolonged period to break dormancy in the spring; this chilling requirement prevents leaf emergence, flowering, or germination from occurring in the middle of winter (Chuine et al., 2016). Warming winters have advanced the onset of spring and could result in insufficient overwinter chilling. In addition, spring and fall frosts that occur after plants become physiologically active can perturb phenology and reduce fitness. Finally, novel winter climates could disrupt biotic interactions among plants, their mutualists, and antagonists. Here, I discuss emerging research frontiers in these domains. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 29, 2024
  3. Divergent selection across the landscape can favor the evolution of local adaptation in populations experiencing contrasting conditions. Local adaptation is widely observed in a diversity of taxa, yet we have a surprisingly limited understanding of the mechanisms that give rise to it. For instance, few have experimentally confirmed the biotic and abiotic variables that promote local adaptation, and fewer yet have identified the phenotypic targets of selection that mediate local adaptation. Here, we highlight critical gaps in our understanding of the process of local adaptation and discuss insights emerging from in-depth investigations of the agents of selection that drive local adaptation, the phenotypes they target, and the genetic basis of these phenotypes. We review historical and contemporary methods for assessing local adaptation, explore whether local adaptation manifests differently across life history, and evaluate constraints on local adaptation. 
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  4. Abstract

    The rapid pace of contemporary environmental change puts many species at risk, especially rare species constrained by limited capacity to adapt or migrate due to low genetic diversity and/or fitness. But the ability to acclimate can provide another way to persist through change. We compared the capacity of rareBoechera perstellata(Braun's rockcress) and widespreadB. laevigatato acclimate to change. We investigated the phenotypic plasticity of growth, biomass allocation, and leaf morphology of individuals ofB. perstellataandB. laevigatapropagated from seed collected from several populations throughout their ranges in a growth chamber experiment to assess their capacity to acclimate. Concurrently, we assessed the genetic diversity of sampled populations using 17 microsatellite loci to assess evolutionary potential. Plasticity was limited in both rareB. perstellataand widespreadB. laevigata, but differences in the plasticity of root traits between species suggest thatB. perstellatamay have less capacity to acclimate to change. In contrast to its widespread congener,B. perstellataexhibited no plasticity in response to temperature and weaker plastic responses to water availability. As expected,B. perstellataalso had lower levels of observed heterozygosity thanB. laevigataat the species level, but population‐level trends in diversity measures were inconsistent due to high heterogeneity amongB. laevigatapopulations. Overall, the ability of phenotypic plasticity to broadly explain the rarity ofB. perstellataversus commonness ofB. laevigatais limited. However, some contextual aspects of our plasticity findings compared with its relatively low genetic variability may shed light on the narrow range and habitat associations ofB. perstellataand suggest its vulnerability to climate warming due to acclimatory and evolutionary constraints.

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  5. Abdelaziz, Mohamed (Ed.)
    Abstract Individuals within natural populations can experience very different abiotic and biotic conditions across small spatial scales owing to microtopography and other micro-environmental gradients. Ecological and evolutionary studies often ignore the effects of micro-environment on plant population and community dynamics. Here, we explore the extent to which fine-grained variation in abiotic and biotic conditions contributes to within-population variation in trait expression and genetic diversity in natural plant populations. Furthermore, we consider whether benign microhabitats could buffer local populations of some plant species from abiotic stresses imposed by rapid anthropogenic climate change. If microrefugia sustain local populations and communities in the short term, other eco-evolutionary processes, such as gene flow and adaptation, could enhance population stability in the longer term. We caution, however, that local populations may still decline in size as they contract into rare microhabitats and microrefugia. We encourage future research that explicitly examines the role of the micro-environment in maintaining genetic variation within local populations, favouring the evolution of phenotypic plasticity at local scales and enhancing population persistence under global change. 
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  6. Summary

    Species differ dramatically in their prevalence in the natural world, with many species characterized as rare due to restricted geographic distribution, low local abundance and/or habitat specialization.

    We investigated the ecoevolutionary causes and consequences of rarity with phylogenetically controlled metaanalyses of population genetic diversity, fitness and functional traits in rare and common congeneric plant species. Our syntheses included 252 rare species and 267 common congeners reported in 153 peer‐reviewed articles published from 1978 to 2020 and one manuscript in press.

    Rare species have reduced population genetic diversity, depressed fitness and smaller reproductive structures than common congeners. Rare species also could suffer from inbreeding depression and reduced fertilization efficiency.

    By limiting their capacity to adapt and migrate, these characteristics could influence contemporary patterns of rarity and increase the susceptibility of rare species to rapid environmental change. We recommend that future studies present more nuanced data on the extent of rarity in focal species, expose rare and common species to ecologically relevant treatments, including reciprocal transplants, and conduct quantitative genetic and population genomic analyses across a greater array of systems. This research could elucidate the processes that contribute to rarity and generate robust predictions of extinction risks under global change.

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  7. Abstract

    Climate change poses critical challenges for population persistence in natural communities, for agriculture and environmental sustainability, and for food security. In this review, we discuss recent progress in climatic adaptation in plants. We evaluate whether climate change exerts novel selection and disrupts local adaptation, whether gene flow can facilitate adaptive responses to climate change, and whether adaptive phenotypic plasticity could sustain populations in the short term. Furthermore, we discuss how climate change influences species interactions. Through a more in‐depth understanding of these eco‐evolutionary dynamics, we will increase our capacity to predict the adaptive potential of plants under climate change. In addition, we review studies that dissect the genetic basis of plant adaptation to climate change. Finally, we highlight key research gaps, ranging from validating gene function to elucidating molecular mechanisms, expanding research systems from model species to other natural species, testing the fitness consequences of alleles in natural environments, and designing multifactorial studies that more closely reflect the complex and interactive effects of multiple climate change factors. By leveraging interdisciplinary tools (e.g., cutting‐edge omics toolkits, novel ecological strategies, newly developed genome editing technology), researchers can more accurately predict the probability that species can persist through this rapid and intense period of environmental change, as well as cultivate crops to withstand climate change, and conserve biodiversity in natural systems.

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  8. Premise

    Industrialization and human activities have elevated temperatures and caused novel precipitation patterns, altering soil moisture and nutrient availability. Predicting evolutionary responses to climate change requires information on the agents of selection that drive local adaptation and influence resource acquisition and allocation. Here, we examined the contribution of nutrient and drought stress to local adaptation, and we tested whether trade‐offs across fitness components constrain or facilitate adaptation under resource stress.


    We exposed 35 families ofBoechera stricta(Brassicaceae) to three levels of water and two levels of nutrient supply in a factorial design in the greenhouse. We sourced maternal families from a broad elevational gradient (2499–3530 m a.s.l.), representing disparate soil moisture and nutrient availability.


    Concordant with local adaptation, maternal families from arid, low‐elevation populations had enhanced fecundity under severe drought over those from more mesic, high‐elevation sites. Furthermore, fitness trade‐offs between growth and reproductive success depended on the environmental context. Under high, but not low, nutrient levels, we found a negative phenotypic relationship between the probability of reproduction and growth rate. Similarly, a negative phenotypic association only emerged between fecundity and growth under severe drought stress, not the benign water treatment levels, indicating that stressful resource environments alter the direction of trait correlations. Genetic covariances were broadly concordant with these phenotypic patterns.


    Despite high heritabilities in all fitness components across treatments, trade‐offs between growth and reproduction could constrain adaptation to increasing drought stress and novel nutrient levels.

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