Co-occurring species often differ in intraspecific genetic diversity, which in turn can affect adaptation in response to environmental change. Specifically, the simultaneous evolutionary responses of co-occurring species to temporal environmental change may influence community dynamics. Local adaptation along environmental gradients combined with gene flow can enhance genetic diversity of traits within populations. Quantitative genetic theory shows that having greater gene flow results in (a) lower equilibrium population size due to maladaptive immigrant genotypes (migration load), but (b) faster adaptation to changing environments. Here, I build off this theory to study community dynamics of locally adapted species in response to temporal environmental changes akin to warming temperatures. Although an abrupt environmental change leaves all species initially maladapted, high gene flow species subsequently adapt faster due to greater genetic diversity. As a result, species can transiently reverse their relative abundances, but sometimes only after long lag periods. If constant temporal environmental change is applied, the community exhibits a shift toward stable dominance by species with intermediate gene flow. Notably, fast-adapting high gene flow species can increase in absolute abundance under environmental change (although often only for a transient period) because the change suppresses superior competitors with lower gene flow. This eco-evolutionary competitive release stabilizes ecosystem function. The eco-evolutionary community turnover studied here parallels the purely ecological successional dynamics following disturbances. My results demonstrate how interspecific variation in life history can have far-reaching impacts on eco-evolutionary community response to environmental change.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)