Decomposing variation in population growth into contributions from both ecological and evolutionary processes is of fundamental concern, particularly in a world characterized by rapid responses to anthropogenic threats. Although the impact of ecological change on evolutionary response has long been acknowledged, the converse has predominantly been neglected, especially empirically. By applying a recently published conceptual framework, we assess and contrast the relative importance of phenotypic and environmental variability on annual population growth in five contrasting ungulate populations.
In four of the five populations, the contribution of phenotypic variability was greater than the contribution of environmental variability, although not significantly so. The similarity in the contributions of environment and phenotype suggests that neither is worthy of neglect. Population growth is a consequence of multiple processes, which strengthens arguments advocating integrated approaches to assess how populations respond to their environments.