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CR 53:245-262 (2012)  -  DOI:

Surviving in a warmer world: environmental and genetic responses

A. Donnelly1,9,*, A. Caffarra2,10, C. T. Kelleher3, B. F. O’Neill1, E. Diskin1, A. Pletsers1, H. Proctor1, R. Stirnemann1, J. O’Halloran4, J. Peñuelas5, T. R. Hodkinson1, T. H. Sparks6,7,8

1School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
2Department of Agroecosystems and Sustainable Bioresources, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione E. Mach, 38010 San Michele all’Adige, Trento, Italy
3Herbarium, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin 9, Ireland
4School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Enterprise Centre, Distillery Fields, University College Cork, Ireland
5Global Ecology Unit CREAF-CEAB-CSIC, Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications, Facultat de Ciències, Campus Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain
6Fachgebiet für Ökoklimatologie, Technische Universität München, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 2, 85354 Freising, Germany
7Institute of Zoology, Poznań University of Life Sciences, Wojska Polskiego 71C, 60-625 Pozna, Poland
8Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK
9Present address: Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201, USA
10Present address: Centre de Recherche de Climatologie - UMR Biogéosciences, Université de Bourgogne, 21000 Dijon, France

ABSTRACT: There are numerous reports in the literature of advancing trends in phenophases of plants, insects and birds attributed to rising temperature resulting from human-driven climate warming. One mechanism that enables a population to respond rapidly to changes in the environment is termed phenotypic plasticity. This plasticity grants a degree of flexibility to enable the timing of developmental stages to coincide with resource availability. If, however, environmental conditions exceed the plastic limits of an organism, evolutionary change may be necessary in order to ensure continued survival of their populations. We review evidence for phenotypic plasticity and genetic adaptation in phenological characteristics associated with climatic warming. We focus this review on examples from trees, insects and birds. We found many reports of direct observations of phenotypic plasticity but fewer studies providing conclusive evidence of genetic adaptation. Evidence for changes in genes linked with adaptive traits associated with a warming climate was stronger in insects, that have a relatively short life-cycle, than in longer-lived birds and trees. Further research is required to identify both appropriate long-term data sets for a range of species and traits and suitable analytical methods, which will permit the study of the complex interaction between phenotypic plasticity and genetic adaptation of organisms and their populations in response to climatic change.

KEY WORDS: Climate change · Phenotypic plasticity · Genetic adaptation · Trees · Insects · Birds

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Cite this article as: Donnelly A, Caffarra A, Kelleher CT, O’Neill BF and others (2012) Surviving in a warmer world: environmental and genetic responses. Clim Res 53:245-262.

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