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Journal Article

Evolution of Local Facilitation in Arid Ecosystems

Sonia Kéfi, Minus van Baalen, Max Rietkerk and Michel Loreau
The American Naturalist
Vol. 172, No. 1 (July 2008), pp. E1-E17
DOI: 10.1086/588066
Stable URL:
Page Count: 17
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Abstract: In harsh environments, sessile organisms can make their habitat more hospitable by buffering environmental stress or increasing resource availability. Although the ecological significance of such local facilitation is widely established, the evolutionary aspects have been seldom investigated. Yet addressing the evolutionary aspects of local facilitation is important because theoretical studies show that systems with such positive interactions can exhibit alternative stable states and that such systems may suddenly become extinct when they evolve (evolutionary suicide). Arid ecosystems currently experience strong changes in climate and human pressures, but little is known about the effects of these changes on the selective pressures exerted on the vegetation. Here, we focus on the evolution of local facilitation in arid ecosystems, using a lattice‐structured model explicitly considering local interactions among plants. We found that the evolution of local facilitation depends on the seed dispersal strategy. In systems characterized by short‐distance seed dispersal, adaptation to a more stressful environment leads to high local facilitation, allowing the population to escape extinction. In contrast, systems characterized by long‐distance seed dispersal become extinct under increased stress even when allowed to adapt. In this case, adaptation in response to climate change and human pressures could give the final push to the desertification of arid ecosystems.

Notes and References

This item contains 71 references.

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