Life-history predicts global population responses to the weather in terrestrial mammals

  1. John Jackson  Is a corresponding author
  2. Christie Le Coeur
  3. Owen Jones
  1. University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  2. University of Oslo, Norway
  3. University of Southern Denmark, Denmark


With the looming threat of abrupt ecological disruption due to a changing climate, predicting which species are most vulnerable to environmental change is critical. The life-history of a species is an evolved response to its environmental context, and therefore a promising candidate for explaining differences in climate-change responses. However, we need broad empirical assessments from across the worlds ecosystems to explore the link between life-history and climate-change responses. Here, we use long-term abundance records from 157 species of terrestrial mammal and a two-step Bayesian meta-regression framework to investigate the link between annual weather anomalies, population growth rates, and species-level life-history. Overall, we found no directional effect of temperature or precipitation anomalies or variance on annual population growth rates. Furthermore, population responses to weather anomalies were not predicted by phylogenetic covariance, and instead there was more variability in weather responses for populations within a species. Crucially, however, long-lived mammals with smaller litter sizes had smaller absolute population responses to weather anomalies compared to their shorter-living counterparts with larger litters. These results highlight the role of species-level life-history in driving responses to the environment.

Data availability

All data presented in the current manuscript is publicly available. All code and analyses are fully available and archived in the following Zenodo repository: 10.5281/zenodo.6620489, which was created from the folowing github repository:

The following previously published data sets were used

Article and author information

Author details

  1. John Jackson

    2.Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-4563-2840
  2. Christie Le Coeur

    Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Owen Jones

    Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


Danish Independent Research Fund (DFF-6108-00467B)

  • John Jackson
  • Owen Jones

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Bernhard Schmid, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Version history

  1. Preprint posted: April 22, 2021 (view preprint)
  2. Received: September 23, 2021
  3. Accepted: June 30, 2022
  4. Accepted Manuscript published: July 1, 2022 (version 1)
  5. Version of Record published: July 22, 2022 (version 2)


© 2022, Jackson et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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  1. John Jackson
  2. Christie Le Coeur
  3. Owen Jones
Life-history predicts global population responses to the weather in terrestrial mammals
eLife 11:e74161.

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