Recent exposure to environmental stochasticity does not determine the demographic resilience of natural populations

James Cant*, Pol Capdevila, Maria Beger, Roberto Salguero-Gómez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Escalating climatic and anthropogenic pressures expose ecosystems worldwide to increasingly stochastic environments. Yet, our ability to forecast the responses of natural populations to this increased environmental stochasticity is impeded by a limited understanding of how exposure to stochastic environments shapes demographic resilience. Here, we test the association between local environmental stochasticity and the resilience attributes (e.g. resistance, recovery) of 2242 natural populations across 369 animal and plant species. Contrary to the assumption that past exposure to frequent environmental shifts confers a greater ability to cope with current and future global change, we illustrate how recent environmental stochasticity regimes from the past 50 years do not predict the inherent resistance or recovery potential of natural populations. Instead, demographic resilience is strongly predicted by the phylogenetic relatedness among species, with survival and developmental investments shaping their responses to environmental stochasticity. Accordingly, our findings suggest that demographic resilience is a consequence of evolutionary processes and/or deep-time environmental regimes, rather than recent-past experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1186-1199
Number of pages14
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number7
Early online date9 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • Demographic compensation
  • Matrix population models
  • Partial least squares regression
  • Phylogenetic signal
  • Recovery
  • Resistance
  • Transient demography


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