Simulating plasticity as a framework for understanding habitat selection and its role in adaptive capacity and extinction risk through an expansion of CDMetaPOP

Travis Seaborn, Erin L. Landguth, Christopher C. Caudill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Adaptive capacity can present challenges for modelling as it encompasses multiple ecological and evolutionary processes such as natural selection, genetic drift, gene flow and phenotypic plasticity. Spatially explicit, individual-based models provide an outlet for simulating these complex interacting eco-evolutionary processes. We expanded the existing Cost-Distance Meta-POPulation (CDMetaPOP) framework with inducible plasticity modelled as a habitat selection behaviour, using temperature or habitat quality variables, with a genetically based selection threshold conditioned on past individual experience. To demonstrate expected results in the new module, we simulated hypothetical populations and then evaluated model performance in populations of redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri) across three watersheds where temperatures induce physiological stress in parts of the stream network. We ran simulations using projected warming stream temperature data under four scenarios for alleles that: (1) confer thermal tolerance, (2) bestow plastic habitat selection, (3) give both thermal tolerance and habitat selection preference and (4) do not provide either thermal tolerance or habitat selection. Inclusion of an adaptive allele decreased declines in population sizes, but this impact was greatly reduced in the relatively cool stream networks. As anticipated with the new module, high-temperature patches remained unoccupied by individuals with the allele operating plastically after exposure to warm temperatures. Using complete habitat avoidance above the stressful temperature threshold, habitat selection reduced the overall population size due to the opportunity cost of avoiding areas with increased, but not guaranteed, mortality. Inclusion of plasticity within CDMetaPOP will provide the potential for genetic or plastic traits and ‘rescue’ to affect eco-evolutionary dynamics for research questions and conservation applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1458-1472
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology Resources
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • CDMetaPOP
  • Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri
  • agent-based model
  • behavioural plasticity
  • computer simulations
  • eco-evolutionary model
  • genotype-environment associations
  • habitat selection
  • temperature selection
  • Genetic Drift
  • Temperature
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Biological Evolution
  • Ecosystem


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