Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Individual-based modeling of eco-evolutionary dynamics: state of the art and future directions

  • Daniel Romero-MujalliEmail author
  • Florian Jeltsch
  • Ralph Tiedemann


A challenge for eco-evolutionary research is to better understand the effect of climate and landscape changes on species and their distribution. Populations of species can respond to changes in their environment through local genetic adaptation or plasticity, dispersal, or local extinction. The individual-based modeling (IBM) approach has been repeatedly applied to assess organismic responses to environmental changes. IBMs simulate emerging adaptive behaviors from the basic entities upon which both ecological and evolutionary mechanisms act. The objective of this review is to summarize the state of the art of eco-evolutionary IBMs and to explore to what degree they already address the key responses of organisms to environmental change. In this, we identify promising approaches and potential knowledge gaps in the implementation of eco-evolutionary mechanisms to motivate future research. Using mainly the ISI Web of Science, we reveal that most of the progress in eco-evolutionary IBMs in the last decades was achieved for genetic adaptation to novel local environmental conditions. There is, however, not a single eco-evolutionary IBM addressing the three potential adaptive responses simultaneously. Additionally, IBMs implementing adaptive phenotypic plasticity are rare. Most commonly, plasticity was implemented as random noise or reaction norms. Our review further identifies a current lack of models where plasticity is an evolving trait. Future eco-evolutionary models should consider dispersal and plasticity as evolving traits with their associated costs and benefits. Such an integrated approach could help to identify conditions promoting population persistence depending on the life history strategy of organisms and the environment they experience.


Modeling Individual-based models Ecology Evolution Eco-evolutionary dynamics 



We thank the research group of Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation of the University of Potsdam for their valuable comments on the manuscript.

Funding information

This work was funded by the University of Potsdam.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Potsdam, Evolutionary Biology/Systematic ZoologyPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.University of Potsdam, Plant Ecology and Nature ConservationPotsdamGermany
  3. 3.Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB)BerlinGermany

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