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Small populations are predicted to perform poorly relative to large populations when experiencing environmental change. To explore this prediction in nature, data from reciprocal transplant, common garden, and translocation studies were compared meta-analytically. We contrasted changes in performance resulting from transplantation to new environments among individuals originating from different sized source populations from plants and salmonids. We then evaluated the effect of source population size on performance in natural common garden environments and the relationship between population size and habitat quality. In 'home-away' contrasts, large populations exhibited reduced performance in new environments. In common gardens, the effect of source population size on performance was inconsistent across life-history stages (LHS) and environments. When transplanted to the same set of new environments, small populations either performed equally well or better than large populations, depending on life stage. Conversely, large populations outperformed small populations within native environments, but only at later life stages. Population size was not associated with habitat quality. Several factors might explain the negative association between source population size and performance in new environments: (i) stronger local adaptation in large populations and antagonistic pleiotropy, (ii) the maintenance of genetic variation in small populations, and (iii) potential environmental differences between large and small populations.
Yates, M. C., & Fraser, D. J. (2014). Does source population size affect performance in new environments? Evolutionary Applications, 7(8), 871–882. https://doi.org/10.1111/eva.12181