Disturbances Can Promote and Hinder Coexistence of Competitors in Ongoing Partner Choice Mutualisms.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Ecosystems are under threat from anthropogenic and natural disturbances, yet little is known about how these disturbances alter mutualistic interactions. Many mutualistic interactions are highly context dependent and dynamic due to "ongoing" partner choice, impeding our understanding of how disturbances might influence mutualistic systems. Previously we showed that in the absence of additional known mechanisms of competitive coexistence, mutualistic fungi can coexist in a system where the plant community associates dynamically with two empirically defined arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal types: a cheap kind that provides low nutrient benefits, and an expensive type that provides high nutrient benefits. We built on this framework to ask how disturbances of different types, frequencies, amplitudes, and predictabilities alter ongoing partner choice and thereby influence the coexistence of mutualists. We found that the effects of disturbances depend on the type, amplitude, and predictability of disturbances and, to a lesser extent, on their frequency. Disturbance can disrupt mutualist coexistence by enabling hosts more efficiently to exclude partners that behave as parasites. Disturbance can also promote coexistence by altering the strength and direction of consumer-resource interactions. Predicting the effects of disturbance on the mutualist community therefore requires us to understand better the consumer-resource relationships under various environmental conditions. We show how, through such context-dependent effects, disturbance and ongoing partner choice can together generate relative nonlinearity and investment in future benefit, introducing fluctuation-dependent mechanisms of competitive coexistence. Our findings support a broadening of the conceptual framework regarding disturbances and competition to include fluctuation-dependent mechanisms alongside the spatiotemporal intermediate disturbance hypothesis.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bachelot, B; Lee, CT

Published Date

  • March 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 195 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 445 - 462

PubMed ID

  • 32097043

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-5323

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0003-0147

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1086/707258


  • eng