Evolutionary responses to climate change are most likely to be of importance in abundant, short-lived species such as pests and in populations restricted to habitat islands including nature reserves. There are compelling, empirical, and theoretical reasons to believe that evolutionary responses to abrupt step-changes in the environment may differ qualitatively from responses to gradual, progressive changes, because of the consequences of selection intensity for evolutionary response. Studies of the genetic bases for pesticide resistance over the past 40 years suggest that the evolutionary responses to climate change will most likely involve polygenic responses. Quantitative genetic models suggest that the performance breadth of physiological traits will play an important and complex role in evolutionary adaptation to climate change and indicate that the determinants of genetic variation in physiological performance are key to understanding the evolutionary responses of populations to progressive climate change.

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