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Title: Mutualisms impact species' range expansion speeds and spatial distributions

Species engage in mutually beneficial interspecific interactions (mutualisms) that shape their population dynamics in ecological communities. Species engaged in mutualisms vary greatly in their degree of dependence on their partner from complete dependence (e.g., yucca and yucca moth mutualism) to low dependence (e.g., generalist bee with multiple plant species). While current empirical studies show that, in mutualisms, partner dependence can alter the speed of a species' range expansion, there is no theory that provides conditions when expansion is sped up or slowed down. To address this, we built a spatially explicit model incorporating the population dynamics of two dispersing species interacting mutualistically. We explored how mutualisms impacted range expansion across a gradient of dependence (from complete independence to obligacy) between the two species. We then studied the conditions in which the magnitude of the mutualistic benefits could hinder versus enhance the speed of range expansion. We showed that either complete dependence, no dependence, or intermediate degree of dependence on a mutualist partner can lead to the greatest speeds of a focal species' range expansion based on the magnitude of benefits exchanged between partner species in the mutualism. We then showed how different degrees of dependence between species could alter the spatial distribution of the range expanding populations. Finally, we identified the conditions under which mutualistic interactions can turn exploitative across space, leading to the formation of a species' range limits. Our work highlights how couching mutualisms and mutualist dependence in a spatial context can provide insights about species range expansions, limits, and ultimately their distributions.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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