Fitness and physiology in a variable environment

Sarah Kimball, Jennifer R. Gremer, Amy L. Angert, Travis E. Huxman, David L Venable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The relationship between physiological traits and fitness often depends on environmental conditions. In variable environments, different species may be favored through time, which can influence both the nature of trait evolution and the ecological dynamics underlying community composition. To determine how fluctuating environmental conditions favor species with different physiological traits over time, we combined long-term data on survival and fecundity of species in a desert annual plant community with data on weather and physiological traits. For each year, we regressed the standardized annual fitness of each species on its position along a tradeoff between relative growth rate and water-use efficiency. Next, we determined how variations in the slopes and intercepts of these fitness-physiology functions related to year-to-year variations in temperature and precipitation. Years with a relatively high percentage of small rain events and a greater number of days between precipitation pulse events tended to be worse, on average, for all desert annual species. Species with high relative growth rates and low water-use efficiency had greater standardized annual fitness than other species in years with greater numbers of large rain events. Conversely, species with high water-use efficiency had greater standardized annual fitness in years with small rain events and warm temperatures late in the growing season. These results reveal how weather variables interact with physiological traits of co-occurring species to determine interannual variations in survival and fecundity, which has important implications for understanding population and community dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-329
Number of pages11
JournalOecologia
Volume169
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

water use efficiency
physiology
fitness
rain
deserts
fecundity
weather
environmental factors
plant communities
temperature
growing season
desert
environmental conditions
annual plant
community dynamics
annual variation
community composition
plant community
population dynamics

Keywords

  • Climate
  • Desert annual plants
  • Precipitation
  • Relative growth rate
  • Temperature
  • Water-use efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Kimball, S., Gremer, J. R., Angert, A. L., Huxman, T. E., & Venable, D. L. (2012). Fitness and physiology in a variable environment. Oecologia, 169(2), 319-329. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-011-2199-2

Fitness and physiology in a variable environment. / Kimball, Sarah; Gremer, Jennifer R.; Angert, Amy L.; Huxman, Travis E.; Venable, David L.

In: Oecologia, Vol. 169, No. 2, 2012, p. 319-329.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Kimball, S, Gremer, JR, Angert, AL, Huxman, TE & Venable, DL 2012, 'Fitness and physiology in a variable environment', Oecologia, vol. 169, no. 2, pp. 319-329. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-011-2199-2
Kimball, Sarah ; Gremer, Jennifer R. ; Angert, Amy L. ; Huxman, Travis E. ; Venable, David L. / Fitness and physiology in a variable environment. In: Oecologia. 2012 ; Vol. 169, No. 2. pp. 319-329.
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