Plastic and genetic responses of a wild bird population to recent environmental changes

Principal researcher: David Canal

Period: 2019-2022

Understanding the mechanisms by which natural populations respond to environmental fluctuations and their consequences for population persistence are crucial under the ongoing global climate change (CC). Using long-term data from a natural population of a migrant passerine, I will investigate population-level responses to current environmental changes to discriminate whether these responses result from phenotypic plasticity of individuals, changes in between-individual variations or genetic changes affecting mean phenotypes. I will focus on various phenotypic traits characterized by different degrees of within-individual plasticity ranging from traits expressed with little within-individual variation (e.g. morphological traits) to highly flexible, behavioural traits. In addition, I aim to determine the key environmental factors that influence different types of responses acting on different traits. Given i) the availability of morphologic, life history and behavioural data as well as the imminent obtainment of genome-wide genetic markers for several generations of individuals and ii) the fact that the mechanisms mediated by within-individual and between-individual variances have been traditionally neglected in studies of population level responses to CC, the proposed research will solidly expand our understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to adaption to predictable and unpredictable changes in the environment.