Spatially heterogeneous stochasticity and the adaptive diversification of dormancy

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Diversified bet-hedging, a strategy that leads several individuals with the same genotype to express distinct phenotypes in a given generation, is now well established as a common evolutionary response to environmental stochasticity. Life-history traits defined as diversified bet-hedging (e.g. germination or diapause strategies) display marked differences between populations in spatial proximity. In order to find out whether such differences can be explained by local adaptations to spatially heterogeneous environmental stochasticity, we explored the evolution of bet-hedging dormancy strategies in a metapopulation using a two-patch model with patch differences in stochastic juvenile survival. We found that spatial differences in the level of environmental stochasticity, restricted dispersal, increased fragmentation and intermediate survival during dormancy all favour the adaptive diversification of bet-hedging dormancy strategies. Density dependency also plays a major role in the diversification of dormancy strategies because: (i) it may interact locally with environmental stochasticity and amplify its effects; however, (ii) it can also generate chaotic population dynamics that may impede diversification. Our work proposes new hypotheses to explain the spatial patterns of bet-hedging strategies that we hope will encourage new empirical studies of this topic.

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