Coevolution and the effects of climate change on interacting species

Northfield, Tobin D., and Ives, Anthony R. (2013) Coevolution and the effects of climate change on interacting species. PLoS Biology, 11 (10). e1001685. pp. 1-13.

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Background: Recent studies suggest that environmental changes may tip the balance between interacting species, leading to the extinction of one or more species. While it is recognized that evolution will play a role in determining how environmental changes directly affect species, the interactions among species force us to consider the coevolutionary responses of species to environmental changes.

Methodology/Principle Findings: We use simple models of competition, predation, and mutualism to organize and synthesize the ways coevolution modifies species interactions when climatic changes favor one species over another. In cases where species have conflicting interests (i.e., selection for increased interspecific interaction strength on one species is detrimental to the other), we show that coevolution reduces the effects of climate change, leading to smaller changes in abundances and reduced chances of extinction. Conversely, when species have nonconflicting interests (i.e., selection for increased interspecific interaction strength on one species benefits the other), coevolution increases the effects of climate change.

Conclusions/Significance: Coevolution sets up feedback loops that either dampen or amplify the effect of environmental change on species abundances depending on whether coevolution has conflicting or nonconflicting effects on species interactions. Thus, gaining a better understanding of the coevolutionary processes between interacting species is critical for understanding how communities respond to a changing climate. We suggest experimental methods to determine which types of coevolution (conflicting or nonconflicting) drive species interactions, which should lead to better understanding of the effects of coevolution on species adaptation. Conducting these experiments across environmental gradients will test our predictions of the effects of environmental change and coevolution on ecological communities.

Item ID: 30093
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1545-7885
Additional Information:

© 2013 Northfield, Ives. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: USDA Postdoctoral fellowship
Projects and Grants: USDA Postdoctoral fellowship #WISW-2010-05109
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2013 01:09
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060306 Evolutionary Impacts of Climate Change @ 60%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 30%
01 MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES > 0102 Applied Mathematics > 010202 Biological Mathematics @ 10%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 50%
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