Post DM, Palkovacs EP.. Eco-evolutionary feedbacks in community and ecosystem ecology: interactions between the ecological theatre and the evolutionary play. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 364: 1629-1640

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8106, USA.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 7.06). 07/2009; 364(1523):1629-40. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0012
Source: PubMed


Interactions between natural selection and environmental change are well recognized and sit at the core of ecology and evolutionary biology. Reciprocal interactions between ecology and evolution, eco-evolutionary feedbacks, are less well studied, even though they may be critical for understanding the evolution of biological diversity, the structure of communities and the function of ecosystems. Eco-evolutionary feedbacks require that populations alter their environment (niche construction) and that those changes in the environment feed back to influence the subsequent evolution of the population. There is strong evidence that organisms influence their environment through predation, nutrient excretion and habitat modification, and that populations evolve in response to changes in their environment at time-scales congruent with ecological change (contemporary evolution). Here, we outline how the niche construction and contemporary evolution interact to alter the direction of evolution and the structure and function of communities and ecosystems. We then present five empirical systems that highlight important characteristics of eco-evolutionary feedbacks: rotifer-algae chemostats; alewife-zooplankton interactions in lakes; guppy life-history evolution and nutrient cycling in streams; avian seed predators and plants; and tree leaf chemistry and soil processes. The alewife-zooplankton system provides the most complete evidence for eco-evolutionary feedbacks, but other systems highlight the potential for eco-evolutionary feedbacks in a wide variety of natural systems.

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Available from: Eric P Palkovacs, Feb 17, 2014
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    • "Our results suggest the intriguing possibility that the observed changes in this functional trait (sensu Violle et al. 2007; Schmitz et al. 2015) could feed back to influence the dynamics of the system as a whole. These eco-evolutionary feedbacks (Post & Palkovacs 2009; Schoener 2011) are largely undiscussed in island rule literature, but may play an important role in insular ecologies. Prime examples for study with this lens include the finch beaks in the Galapagos (Grant & Grant 1993, 1995) and Anolis lizards in the Caribbean (Spiller & Schoener 1994; Schoener & Spiller 1999). "
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    ABSTRACT: 1.Body size often varies among insular populations relative to continental conspecifics – the “island rule” – and functional, context-dependent morphological differences tend to track this body size variation on islands.2.Two hypotheses are often proposed as potential drivers of insular population differences in morphology: one relating to diet, and the other involving intra-specific competition and aggression. We directly tested whether differences in morphology and maximum bite capacity were explained by inter-island changes in hardness of both available as well as consumed prey, and levels of lizard-to-lizard aggression among small-island populations.3.Our study included 11 islands in the Greek Cyclades and made use of a gradient in island area spanning five orders of magnitude. We focused on the widespread lizard Podarcis erhardii.4.We found that on smaller islands, P. erhardii body size was larger, head height was larger relative to body size, and maximum bite capacity became proportionally stronger.5.This pattern in morphology and performance was not related to differences in diet, but was highly correlated with proxies of intra-specific aggression – bite scars and missing toes.6.Our findings suggest that critical functional traits such as body size and bite force in P. erhardii follow the predictions of the island rule and are changing in response to changes in the competitive landscape across islands of different sizes.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Functional Ecology 08/2015; DOI:10.1111/1365-2435.12550 · 4.83 Impact Factor
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    • "The importance of rapid evolution in modulating ecological dynamics is further enhanced by the increasing intensity of various anthropogenically driven ecosystem disruptions, which will likely trigger rapid evolution (Kinnison and Hairston 2007). As ecological dynamics drive adaptive evolution, feedback loops can be generated such that evolutionary changes in the organism alter its relationship with the environment (eco-evolutionary feedbacks: Post and Palkovacs 2009); however, the strength and nature of such feedback loops is largely unexplored (Matthews et al. 2011, Schoener 2011). Recent work has developed theory that integrates ecological and evolutionary processes within the same timescales (Yoshida et al. 2003, Cortez and Ellner 2010, Mougi and Iwasa 2010), and much of this previous work has focused on how organismal traits relating to interspecific interactions alter population and community dynamics (Fussmann et al. 2007, Ellner 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent studies have shown that adaptive evolution can be rapid enough to affect contemporary ecological dynamics in nature (i.e. ‘rapid evolution’). These studies tend to focus on trait functions relating to interspecific interactions; however, the importance of rapid evolution of stoichiometric traits has been relatively overlooked. Various traits can affect the balance of elements (carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus) of organisms, and rapid evolution of such stoichiometric traits will not only alter population and community dynamics but also influence ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling. Multiple environmental changes may exert a selection pressure leading to adaptation of stoichiometrically important traits, such as an organism's growth rate. In this paper, we use theoretical approaches to explore the connections between rapid evolution and ecological stoichiometry at both the population and ecosystem level. First, we incorporate rapid evolution into an ecological stoichiometry model to investigate the effects of rapid evolution of a consumer's stoichiometric phosphorus:carbon ratio on consumer–producer population dynamics. We took two complementary approaches, an asexual clonal genotype model and a quantitative genetic model. Next, we extended these models to explicitly track nutrients in order to evaluate the effect of rapid evolution at the ecosystem level. Our model results indicate rapid evolution of the consumer stoichiometric trait can cause complex dynamics where rapid evolution destabilizes population dynamics and rescues the consumer population from extinction (evolutionary rescue). The model results also show that rapid evolution may influence the level of nutrients available in the environment and the flux of nutrients across trophic levels. Our study represents an important step for theoretical integration of rapid evolution and ecological stoichiometry.
    Oikos 07/2015; 124(7):960-969. DOI:10.1111/oik.02388 · 3.44 Impact Factor
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    • "Some authors have also suggested that eco - evolution - ary impacts on the ecosystem scale may only be strong when organisms with a strong role in the structuring of communi - ties and ecosystems evolve , as might be expected of ecosys - tem engineers and top predators ( Bailey et al . 2009a ; Post & Palkovacs 2009 ) . However , the ability of a species to influ - ence its surrounding environment no doubt increases with increasing density , further suggesting that density may be an important common currency for eco - evolutionary feedbacks . "
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    ABSTRACT: Evolution can happen rapidly and frequently. This realization has motivated a rethinking of ecological and evolutionary time-scales and their overlap, and stimulated research on processes at their interface. This premise lays at the heart of eco-evolutionary dynamics, a relatively recent field redeveloping how we conceive of ecological and evolutionary processes.Classical evolutionary theory and empirical evidence has generally supported a gradualist view of evolution as occurring on much longer time-scales than ecological processes. The systematic documentation of rapid evolution beginning in the 1970s served as a catalyst to question this basic assumption. The commonness of rapid evolution suggests that ecological and evolutionary processes often occur at the same time-scale, which may allow them to interact.As a new field, eco-evolutionary dynamics faces some important challenges. First, the field is primarily driven by theoretical research and empirical work on organisms with simple, short life cycles, typically animals, and mostly performed under controlled conditions. Secondly, it is unclear whether interactions between ecology and evolution are driven through a few common mechanisms, or whether all interactions are context dependent. Thirdly, there is a lack of eco-evolutionary research at higher organizational levels (e.g. ecosystem and landscape), although it is at those levels that the impact of evolution on our greatest conservation challenges may be most acute. Finally, it remains unclear how genetic diversity impacts eco-evolutionary dynamics, although the strong relationships between additive genetic variance, fitness and the speed of evolution suggest that it is important.Summary. This Special Feature includes five research manuscripts expanding our knowledge of eco-evolutionary dynamics in plants and the organisms they interact with. Its contributors address the aforementioned challenges outlined above, ranging from demonstrating the impacts of genetic variation on plant and herbivore populations, to exploring the role of density in the evolution of plant life-history traits and to documenting genetic covariation among co-occurring communities. This Special Feature highlights the cutting-edge exploration of the dynamic effects of interacting ecological and evolutionary processes, including the potential for complex life histories to influence eco-evolutionary interactions, for common mechanisms to underlie most eco-evolutionary dynamics, for evolution to impact higher organizational levels and for genetic changes to cascade through communities.
    Journal of Ecology 07/2015; 103(4). DOI:10.1111/1365-2745.12432 · 5.52 Impact Factor
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