Facilitation and the niche: Implications for coexistence, range shifts and ecosystem functioning


Journal Article

© 2016 British Ecological Society. Viewing facilitation through the lens of the niche concept is one way to unify conceptual and empirical advances about the role of facilitation in community ecology. We clarify conceptually and through examples from marine and terrestrial environments how facilitation can expand species' niches and consider how these interactions can be scaled up to understand the importance of facilitation in setting a species' geographic range. We then integrate the niche-broadening influence of facilitation into current conceptual areas in ecology, including climate change, diversity maintenance and the relationship between diversity and ecosystem functioning. Because facilitation can influence the range of physical conditions under which a species can persist, it has the potential to mitigate the effects of climate change on species distributions. Whereas facilitation has mostly been considered as a diversity-promoting interaction by ameliorating abiotic stresses, if facilitated species' niches expand and become less distinct as a result of habitat amelioration, the forces that maintain diversity and promote coexistence in regions or habitats dominated by the facilitator could be reduced (i.e. the sign of the effects of facilitation on populations could be species-specific). Finally, shifting or broadening ecological niches could alter the relationship between diversity and ecosystem functioning. A niche-based perspective on the effects of facilitation can foster a greater mechanistic understanding of the role played by facilitation in regulating species coexistence, range shifts and ecosystem functioning in a changing world.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bulleri, F; Bruno, JF; Silliman, BR; Stachowicz, JJ

Published Date

  • January 1, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 30 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 70 - 78

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1365-2435

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0269-8463

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/1365-2435.12528

Citation Source

  • Scopus