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To forecast extinction risks of natural populations under climate change and direct human impacts, an integrative understanding of both phenotypic plasticity and adaptive evolution is essential. To date, the evidence for whether, when, and how much plasticity facilitates adaptive responses in changing environments is contradictory. We argue that explicitly considering three key environmental change components - rate of change, variance, and temporal autocorrelation - affords a unifying framework of the impact of plasticity on adaptive evolution. These environmental components each distinctively effect evolutionary and ecological processes underpinning population viability. Using this framework, we develop expectations regarding the interplay between plasticity and adaptive evolution in natural populations. This framework has the potential to improve predictions of population viability in a changing world.

Original publication




Journal article


Trends Ecol Evol

Publication Date



climate change, environmental change, environmental stochasticity, environmental variation, evolution, plasticity