Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 601–616 | Cite as

Population responses within a landscape matrix: a macrophysiological approach to understanding climate change impacts

  • Steven L. ChownEmail author
  • Kevin J. Gaston
  • Mark van Kleunen
  • Susana Clusella-Trullas
Original paper


Global environmental change (GEC) is a significant concern. However, forecasting the outcomes of this change for species and ecosystems remains a major challenge. In particular, predicting specific changes in systems where initial conditions, instabilities, and model errors have large impacts on the outcome is problematic. Indeed, predictive community ecology has been deemed unworthy of pursuit or an unreachable goal. However, new developments in large-scale biology provide ways of thinking that might substantially improve forecasts of local and regional impacts of climate change. Most notably, these are the explicit recognition of the regional and landscape contexts within which populations reside, the matrix approach that can be used to investigate the consequences of population variation across space and within assemblages, and the development of macrophysiology, which explicitly seeks to understand the ecological implications of physiological variation across large spatial and temporal scales. Here we explore how a combination of these approaches might promote further understanding and forecasting of the effects of global climate change and perhaps other GEC drivers on biodiversity. We focus on the population level, examining the ways in which environmental variation might be translated through performance and its plasticity to variation in demography.


Bioclimatic modelling Mechanistic models Performance curves Phenotypic plasticity r × c matrices 



We thank Mike Angilletta, Jen Lee, John Terblanche and an anonymous referee for comments on a previous version of this manuscript. This work was partially supported by NRF Grant IFR2008071500012 to SLC and partially by a Stellenbosch University Overarching Strategic Plan grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven L. Chown
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kevin J. Gaston
    • 2
  • Mark van Kleunen
    • 3
  • Susana Clusella-Trullas
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and ZoologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  2. 2.Biodiversity and Macroecology Group, Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  3. 3.Institute of Plant Sciences and Oeschger CentreUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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