Variation in life-history traits can have major impacts on the ecological and evolutionary responses of populations to environmental change. Life-history variation often results from trade-offs that arise because individuals have a limited pool of resources to allocate among traits. However, human activities are increasing the availability of many once-limited resources, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, with potentially major implications for the expression and evolution of life-history trade-offs. In this review, we synthesize contemporary life history and sexual selection literature with current research on ecosystem nutrient cycling to highlight novel opportunities presented by anthropogenic environmental change for investigating life-history trait development and evolution. Specifically, we review four areas where nutrition plays a pivotal role in life-history evolution and explore possible implications in the face of rapid, human-induced change in nutrient availability. For example, increases in the availability of nutrients may relax historical life-history trade-offs and reduce the honesty of signaling systems. We argue that ecosystems experiencing anthropogenic nutrient inputs present a powerful yet underexplored arena for testing novel and longstanding questions in organismal life-history evolution.
- Life-history traits