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Ecology and Evolution along Environmental Gradients

Guest Editor: Dr. Rüdiger Riesch (Rudiger.Riesch@rhul.ac.uk), Dr. David Bierbach (Bierbach@igb-berlin.de), and Dr. Martin Plath (mplath-zoology@foxmail.com)

Deadline for title submission: 1 June 2017
Deadline for manuscript submission: 10 August 2017
Manuscript handling (paper reviewing + revision): 30 October 2017
Publication: Issue 1, 2018

Divergent natural selection stemming from different ecological environments is a central mechanism for within- and between-species diversity, and environmental gradients are one of the major natural sources of divergent selection. Therefore, studying biotic responses along environmental gradients provides a unique opportunity to gain insights into the intricacies of natural selection.

Even though a large body of literature on environmental gradients is available, we still only have a very patchy understanding of how they shape biological diversity. For example, most research has usually focused on the extreme endpoints of various environmental gradients. Yet, how do nuanced changes along an environmental gradient impact organismal responses? Do nuanced changes usually lead to nuanced organismal responses tracking the gradient, or must certain selection thresholds be surpassed to elicit an organismal response? Moreover, steep environmental gradients are known to often result in reproductive isolation among different locally adapted populations (i.e., ecological speciation). However, how and to what extent does reproductive isolation also emerge along soft/nuanced environmental gradients? Finally, environmental gradients are manifold, and could arise due to differences in abiotic factors such as temperature, elevation, oxygen availability, nutrient availability, or salinity, or biotic factors such as predation pressure or risk and intensity of parasite infections. Do different environmental gradients exert different selective regimes that will result in differential patterns of organismal responses to them?

This special column aims to bring together diverse research into environmental gradients to

  1. expand our current knowledge of how environmental gradients impact the organisms living along them; 
  2. explore the diversity of environmental gradients and organismal responses to them (hopefully drawing from a diversity of taxa); 
  3. help establish under what circumstances environmental gradients lead to change in ecological community structures, and under what circumstances evolutionary change within species is to be expected


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