Document Type


Date of Original Version



Natural Resources Science


Evolutionary change has been demonstrated to occur rapidly in human‐modified systems, yet understanding how multiple components of global change interact to affect adaptive evolution remains a critical knowledge gap. Climate change is predicted to impose directional selection on traits to reduce thermal stress, but the strength of directional selection may be mediated by changes in the thermal environment driven by land use. We examined how regional climatic conditions and land use interact to affect genetically based color polymorphism in the eastern red‐backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus). P. cinereus is a woodland salamander with two primary discrete color morphs (striped, unstriped) that have been associated with macroclimatic conditions. Striped individuals are most common in colder regions, but morph frequencies can be variable within climate zones. We used path analysis to analyze morph frequencies among 238,591 individual salamanders across 1,170 sites in North America. Frequency of striped individuals was positively related to forest cover in populations occurring in warmer regions (>7°C annually), a relationship that was weak to nonexistent in populations located in colder regions (≤7°C annually). Our results suggest that directional selection imposed by climate warming at a regional scale may be amplified by forest loss and suppressed by forest persistence, with a mediating effect of land use that varies geographically. Our work highlights how the complex interaction of selection pressures imposed by different components of global change may lead to divergent evolutionary trajectories among populations.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.