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
    • "Eco-evolutionary feedbacks have a long history in ecology and evolution and have been formulated (and reformulated) in many different ways1011121314. In very general terms, an eco-evolutionary feedback occurs when the ecosystem effects (biotic and abiotic) of a population of organisms reciprocally influences fitness variation in the population, selection pressures, and/or evolutionary responses[9,15]. Feedback loops can emerge from the effects of individuals on population-, community-, and ecosystem-level processes[16,17]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Differences in how organisms modify their environment can evolve rapidly and might influence adaptive population divergence [1, 2]. In a common garden experiment in aquatic mesocosms, we found that adult stickleback from a recently diverged pair of lake and stream populations had contrasting effects on ecosystem metrics. These modifications were caused by both genetic and plastic differences between populations and were sometimes comparable in magnitude to those caused by the presence/absence of stickleback. Lake and stream fish differentially affected the biomass of zooplankton and phytoplankton, the concentration of phosphorus, and the abundance of several prey (e.g., copepods) and non-prey (e.g., cyanobacteria) species. The adult-mediated effects on mesocosm ecosystems influenced the survival and growth of a subsequent generation of juvenile stickleback reared in the same mesocosms. The prior presence of adults decreased the overall growth rate of juveniles, and the prior presence of stream adults lowered overall juvenile survival. Among the survivors, lake juveniles grew faster than co-occurring stream juveniles, except in mesocosm ecosystems previously modified by adult lake fish that were reared on plankton. Overall, our results provide evidence for reciprocal interactions between ecosystem dynamics and evolutionary change (i.e., eco-evolutionary feedbacks) in the early stages of adaptive population divergence.
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    • "Each of these areas shares the common underlying conceptual problem caused by bi-directional interactions or reciprocal causation (Levins & Lewontin 1987; Post & Palkovacs 2009; Laland et al. 2011, 2015), i.e. evolution modifies organisations (often naturally described as networks) and these organisations modify the process of evolution. The notion that evolutionary processes can thereby change their own parameters is the root cause of theoretical and conceptual roadblocks in each field (Watson & Szathmary 2015). "
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    ABSTRACT: The mechanisms of variation, selection and inheritance, on which evolution by natural selection depends, are not fixed over evolutionary time. Current evolutionary biology is increasingly focussed on understanding how the evolution of developmental organisations modifies the distribution of phenotypic variation, the evolution of ecological relationships modifies the selective environment, and the evolution of reproductive relationships modifies the heritability of the evolutionary unit. The major transitions in evolution, in particular, involve radical changes in developmental, ecological and reproductive organisations that instantiate variation, selection and inheritance at a higher level of biological organisation. However, current evolutionary theory is poorly equipped to describe how these organisations change over evolutionary time and especially how that results in adaptive complexes at successive scales of organisation (the key problem is that evolution is self-referential, i.e. the products of evolution change the parameters of the evolutionary process). Here we first reinterpret the central open questions in these domains from a perspective that emphasises the common underlying themes. We then synthesise the findings from a developing body of work that is building a new theoretical approach to these questions by converting well-understood theory and results from models of cognitive learning. Specifically, connectionist models of memory and learning demonstrate how simple incremental mechanisms, adjusting the relationships between individually-simple components, can produce organisations that exhibit complex system-level behaviours and improve the adaptive capabilities of the system. We use the term “evolutionary connectionism” to recognise that, by functionally equivalent processes, natural selection acting on the relationships within and between evolutionary entities can result in organisations that produce complex system-level behaviours in evolutionary systems and modify the adaptive capabilities of natural selection over time. We review the evidence supporting the functional equivalences between the domains of learning and of evolution, and discuss the potential for this to resolve conceptual problems in our understanding of the evolution of developmental, ecological and reproductive organisations and, in particular, the major evolutionary transitions.
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    • "Species are composed of populations that are spatially differentiated due to temporally varying interactions and feedbacks between their genotypes and the local environment in which they live (Kawecki and Ebert 2004; Post and Palkovacs 2009; Shaw and Etterson 2012). These genotype 9 environment feedbacks and the resulting reaction norms (Lewontin 2006) can result in local adaptation that manifests itself as intraspecific variation. "
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    ABSTRACT: I test for macroscale intraspecific variation of abundance, mortality, and regeneration of four eastern US tree species (Tsuga canadensis, Betula lenta, Liriodendron tulipifera, and Quercus prinus) by splitting them into three climatic zones based on plant hardiness zones (PHZs). The primary goals of the analysis are to assess the differences in environmental heterogeneity and demographic responses among climatic zones, map regional species groups based on decision tree rules, and evaluate univariate and multivariate patterns of species demography with respect to environmental variables. I use the Forest Inventory Analysis (FIA) data to derive abundance, mortality, and regeneration indices and split the range into three climatic zones based on USDA PHZs: (1) cold adapted, leading region; (2) middle, well-adapted region; and (3) warm adapted, trailing region. I employ decision tree ensemble methods to assess the importance of environmental predictors on the abundance of the species between the cold and warm zones and map zonal variations in species groups. Multivariate regression trees are used to simultaneously explore abundance, mortality, and regeneration in tandem to assess species vulnerability. Analyses point to the relative importance of climate in the warm adapted, trailing zone (especially moisture) compared to the cold adapted, leading zone. Higher mortality and lower regeneration patterns in the warm trailing zone point to its vulnerability to growing season temperature and precipitation changes that could figure more prominently in the future. This study highlights the need to account for intraspecific variation of demography in order to understand environmental heterogeneity and differential adaptation. It provides a methodology for assessing the vulnerability of tree species by delineating climatic zones based on easily available PHZ data, and FIA derived abundance, mortality, and regeneration indices as a proxy for overall growth and fitness. Based on decision tree rules, ecologically meaningful variations in species abundance among the climatic zones can be related to environmental variability and mapped.
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