Ecology

Relationship Trajectories

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Science  29 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6162, pp. 1020
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6162.1020-a
CREDIT: JEFFREY C. MILLER

Changing climates cause shifts in the geographical distributions of species and in their abundance, as well as in their biological features, such as the timing and duration of reproductive seasons. These shifts can lead to alterations in the strength and effects of the interactions between species in ecological communities, and hence to evolutionary trajectories. Northfield and Ives model how competition, predation, and mutualism are affected by coevolution when climate change affects interacting partners in different ways. When the partners are affected in conflicting ways, coevolution tends to mitigate these effects, but where the effects are nonconflicting, they can be exacerbated by coevolution and can even increase the likelihood of extinction for one or both partners. Their models suggest various experimental scenarios for investigating how coevolution drives species interactions under climate change. Pringle et al. show how the strength of a mutualistic interaction, in which the tropical ant (Azteca sp) protects a plant (Cordia alliodora) against insect herbivores in return for receiving sugar from the plant, varies with the extent of water stress. When less water is available, the mutual dependence of the two partners is increased, illustrating how a shift from one climatic regime to another might alter the future relations of interacting species.

PlOS Biol. 11, e1001685; e1001705 (2013).

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