Multiple pathways exist for species to respond to changing climates. However, responses of dispersal-limited species will be more strongly tied to ability to adapt within existing populations as rates of environmental change will likely exceed movement rates. Here, we assess adaptive capacity in Plethodon cinereus, a dispersal-limited woodland salamander. We quantify plasticity in behavior and variation in demography to observed variation in environmental variables over a 5-year period. We found strong evidence that temperature and rainfall influence P. cinereus surface presence, indicating changes in climate are likely to affect seasonal activity patterns. We also found that warmer summer temperatures reduced individual growth rates into the autumn, which is likely to have negative demographic consequences. Reduced growth rates may delay reproductive maturity and lead to reductions in size-specific fecundity, potentially reducing population-level persistence. To better understand within-population variability in responses, we examined differences between two common color morphs. Previous evidence suggests that the color polymorphism may be linked to physiological differences in heat and moisture tolerance. We found only moderate support for morph-specific differences for the relationship between individual growth and temperature. Measuring environmental sensitivity to climatic variability is the first step in predicting species' responses to climate change. Our results suggest phenological shifts and changes in growth rates are likely responses under scenarios where further warming occurs, and we discuss possible adaptive strategies for resulting selective pressures.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation