Trait evolution in an individual-based model of herbaceous vegetation


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Abstract

Many theoretical studies of evolution are based upon the concepts of the evolutionary stable strategy and optimal life-history solutions. An individual based model of vegetation is used to simulate life-history evolution under two different sets of environmental conditions. At one level the results suggest that optimal life-history solutions do appear to evolve. At the end of the simulations the vegetation that evolved in a fertile and uncut environment was taller, thinner and germinated later than that which developed in a less fertile and cut habitat. However, between simulation variation was observed to be high, particularly for the parameter regulating the timing of reproduction, and it showed no indication of reaching fixation. When this trait was prevented from mutating, the variances of other traits were seen to increase. Although at the population level between simulation variation was high, some traits achieved a degree of stability within simulations, suggesting that multiple adaptive peaks may be being approached. However, there was little evidence of trait fixation occurring within the most abundant ‘genotype’. It is considered that frequency dependent selection/Red Queen dynamics may be acting to prevent the most abundant ‘genotype’ from reaching fixation. It is argued that if such processes prevent optimal genetic solutions from being achieved then the search for evolutionary stable strategies within the evolution of life-histories may be over simplistic.

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