Mutualisms, or reciprocally beneficial interspecific interactions, constitute the foundation of many ecological communities and agricultural systems. Mutualisms come in different forms, from pairwise interactions to extremely diverse communities, and they are continually challenged with exploitation by nonmutualistic community members (exploiters). Thus, understanding how mutualisms persist remains an essential question in ecology. Theory suggests that high species richness and functional redundancy could promote mutualism persistence in complex mutualistic communities. Using a yeast system (
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- p. 346-350
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- National Science Foundation
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Mutualisms, or reciprocally beneficial interspecific interactions, constitute the foundation of many ecological communities and agricultural systems. Mutualisms come in different forms, from pairwise interactions to extremely diverse communities, and they are continually challenged with exploitation by nonmutualistic community members (exploiters). Thus, understanding how mutualisms persist remains an essential question in ecology. Theory suggests that high species richness and functional redundancy could promote mutualism persistence in complex mutualistic communities. Using a yeast system (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), we experimentally show that communities with the greatest mutualist richness and functional redundancy are nearly two times more likely to survive exploitation than are simple communities. Persistence increased because diverse communities were better able to mitigate the negative effects of competition with exploiters. Thus, large mutualistic networks may be inherently buffered from exploitation.
Although mutualisms are often studied as simple pairwise interactions, they typically involve complex networks of interacting species. How multiple mutualistic partners that provide the same service and compete for resources are maintained in mutualistic networks is an open question. We use a model bacterial community in which multiple ‘partner strains’ of
Escherichia colicompete for a carbon source and exchange resources with a ‘shared mutualist’ strain of Salmonella enterica. In laboratory experiments, competing E. colistrains readily coexist in the presence of S. enterica, despite differences in their competitive abilities. We use ecological modeling to demonstrate that a shared mutualist can create temporary resource niche partitioning by limiting growth rates, even if yield is set by a resource external to a mutualism. This mechanism can extend to maintain multiple competing partner species. Our results improve our understanding of complex mutualistic communities and aid efforts to design stable microbial communities.
Diversity, taxonomic composition, and functional aspects of fungal communities in living, senesced, and fallen leaves at five sites across North America
Fungal endophytes inhabit symptomless, living tissues of all major plant lineages to form one of earth’s most prevalent groups of symbionts. Many reproduce from senesced and/or decomposing leaves and can produce extracellular leaf-degrading enzymes, blurring the line between symbiotrophy and saprotrophy. To better understand the endophyte–saprotroph continuum we compared fungal communities and functional traits of focal strains isolated from living leaves to those isolated from leaves after senescence and decomposition, with a focus on foliage of woody plants in five biogeographic provinces ranging from tundra to subtropical scrub forest.
We cultured fungi from the interior of surface-sterilized leaves that were living at the time of sampling (i.e., endophytes), leaves that were dead and were retained in plant canopies (dead leaf fungi, DLF), and fallen leaves (leaf litter fungi, LLF) from 3–4 species of woody plants in each of five sites in North America. Our sampling encompassed 18 plant species representing two families of Pinophyta and five families of Angiospermae. Diversity and composition of fungal communities within and among leaf life stages, hosts, and sites were compared using ITS-partial LSU rDNA data. We evaluated substrate use and enzyme activity by a subset of fungi isolated only from living tissues vs. fungi isolatedmore »
Across the diverse biomes and plant taxa surveyed here, culturable fungi from living leaves were isolated less frequently and were less diverse than those isolated from non-living leaves. Fungal communities in living leaves also differed detectably in composition from communities in dead leaves and leaf litter within focal sites and host taxa, regardless of differential weighting of rare and abundant fungi. All focal isolates grew on cellulose, lignin, and pectin as sole carbon sources, but none displayed ligninolytic or pectinolytic activity
in vitro. Cellulolytic activity differed among fungal classes. Within Dothideomycetes, activity differed significantly between fungi from living vs. non-living leaves, but such differences were not observed in Sordariomycetes. Discussion
Although some fungi with endophytic life stages clearly persist for periods of time in leaves after senescence and incorporation into leaf litter, our sampling across diverse biomes and host lineages detected consistent differences between fungal assemblages in living vs. non-living leaves, reflecting incursion by fungi from the leaf exterior after leaf death and as leaves begin to decompose. However, fungi found only in living leaves do not differ consistently in cellulolytic activity from those fungi detected thus far only in dead leaves. Future analyses should consider Basidiomycota in addition to the Ascomycota fungi evaluated here, and should explore more dimensions of functional traits and persistence to further define the endophytism-to-saprotrophy continuum.
Mutualisms are foundational components of ecosystems with the capacity to generate biodiversity through adaptation and coevolution and give rise to essential services such as pollination and seed dispersal. To understand how mutualistic interactions shape communities and ecosystems, we must identify the mechanisms that underlie their functioning. One mechanism that may drive mutualisms to vary in space and time is the unique behavioral types, or personalities, of the individuals involved. Here, our goal was to examine interindividual variation in the seed dispersal mutualism and identify the role that different personalities play. In a field experiment, we observed individual deer mice ( Peromyscus maniculatus ) with known personality traits predating and dispersing seeds in a natural environment and classified all observed interactions made by individuals as either positive or negative. We then scored mice on a continuum from antagonistic to mutualistic and found that within a population of scatter hoarders, some individuals are more mutualistic than others and that one factor driving this distinction is animal personality. Through this empirical work, we provide a conceptual advancement to the study of mutualism by integrating it with the study of intraspecific behavioral variation. These findings indicate that animal personality is a previously overlooked mechanismmore »
Abstract. All organisms are ultimately dependent on a large diversity of consumptiveand non-consumptive interactions established with other organisms, formingan intricate web of interdependencies. In 1992, when 1700 concernedscientists issued the first “World Scientists' Warning to Humanity”, ourunderstanding of such interaction networks was still in its infancy. Bysimultaneously considering the species (nodes) and the links that glue themtogether into functional communities, the study of modern food webs – ormore generally ecological networks – has brought us closer to a predictivecommunity ecology. Scientists have now observed, manipulated, and modelledthe assembly and the collapse of food webs under various global changestressors and identified common patterns. Most stressors, such as increasingtemperature, biological invasions, biodiversity loss, habitat fragmentation,over-exploitation, have been shown to simplify food webs byconcentrating energy flow along fewer pathways, threatening long-termcommunity persistence. More worryingly, it has been shown that communitiescan abruptly change from highly diverse to simplified stable states withlittle or no warning. Altogether, evidence shows that apart from thechallenge of tackling climate change and hampering the extinction ofthreatened species, we need urgent action to tackle large-scale biologicalchange and specifically to protect food webs, as we are under the risk of pushingentire ecosystems outside their safe zones. At the same time, we needmore »