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Title: Escape from natural enemies depends on the enemies, the invader, and competition
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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Ecology and Evolution
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
10818 to 10828
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Isaac, Marney (Ed.)
  2. Over the past five decades, many studies have examined the Janzen-Connell hypothesis, which posits that host-specific natural enemies, such as insect herbivores and fungal pathogens, promote plant species coexistence by providing a recruitment advantage to rare plant species. Recently, researchers have been exploring new and exciting angles on plant-enemy interactions that have yielded novel insights into this long-standing hypothesis. Here, we highlight some empirical advances in our understanding of plant-enemy interactions in tropical forests, including improved understanding of variation in plant species’ susceptibility to enemy effects, as well as insect and pathogen host ranges. We then review recent advances in related ecological theory. These theoretical studies have confirmed that specialist natural enemies can promote tree diversity. However, they have also shown that the impact of natural enemies may be weakened, or that natural enemies could even cause species exclusion, depending on enemy host range, the spatial extent of enemy effects, and variation among plant species in seed dispersal or enemy susceptibility. Finally, we end by discussing how human impacts on tropical forests, such as fragmentation, hunting, and climate change, may alter the plant-enemy interactions that contribute to tropical forest diversity.
  3. Explaining the maintenance of tropical forest diversity under the countervailing forces of drift and competition poses a major challenge to ecological theory. Janzen−Connell effects, in which host-specific natural enemies restrict the recruitment of juveniles near conspecific adults, provide a potential mechanism. Janzen−Connell is strongly supported empirically, but existing theory does not address the stable coexistence of hundreds of species. Here we use high-performance computing and analytical models to demonstrate that tropical forest diversity can be maintained nearly indefinitely in a prolonged state of transient dynamics due to distance-responsive natural enemies. Further, we show that Janzen−Connell effects lead to community regulation of diversity by imposing a diversity-dependent cost to commonness and benefit to rarity. The resulting species−area and rank−abundance relationships are consistent with empirical results. Diversity maintenance over long time spans does not require dispersal from an external metacommunity, speciation, or resource niche partitioning, only a small zone around conspecific adults in which saplings fail to recruit. We conclude that the Janzen−Connell mechanism can explain the maintenance of tropical tree diversity while not precluding the operation of other niche-based mechanisms such as resource partitioning.