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Fitness homeostasis across an experimental water gradient predicts species' geographic range and climatic breadth

July 20, 2022

Species range sizes and realized niche breadths vary tremendously. Understanding the source of this variation has been a long-term aim in evolutionary ecology and is a major tool in efforts to ameliorate the impacts of changing climates on species distributions. Species ranges that span a large climatic envelope can be achieved by a collection of specialized genotypes locally adapted to a small range of conditions, by genotypes with stable fitness across variable environments, or a combination of these factors. We asked whether fitness expressed along a key niche axis, water availability, could explain a species' realized niche breadth, its geographic range and climate breadth, in 11 species from a clade of jewelflowers whose range sizes vary by two orders of magnitude. Specifically, we explored whether the range size of a species was related to the ability of genotypes (maternal families) to maintain fitness across a range of experimental water availabilities based on 30-year historical field precipitation regimes. We operationally characterized fitness homeostasis through the coefficient of variation in fitness of a genotype (family) across the experimental water gradient. We found that species with genotypes that had high fitness homeostasis, low variation in fitness over our treatments, had larger climatic niche breadth and geographic range in their field distributions. The result was robust to alternate measures of fitness homeostasis. Our results show that the fitness homeostasis of genotypes can be a major factor contributing to niche breadth and range size in this clade. Fitness homeostasis can buffer species from loss of genetic diversity and under changing climates, provides time for adaptation to future conditions.

Publication Year 2022
Title Fitness homeostasis across an experimental water gradient predicts species' geographic range and climatic breadth
DOI 10.1002/ecy.3827
Authors Ian Pearse, Patrick J. McIntyre, N. Ivalú Cacho, Sharon Y Strauss
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology
Index ID 70243025
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center