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  1. The spread of an enteric pathogen in the human gut depends on many interacting factors, including pathogen exposure, diet, host gut environment, and host microbiota, but how these factors jointly influence infection outcomes remains poorly characterized. Here, we develop a model of host-mediated resource-competition between mutualistic and pathogenic taxa in the gut that aims to explain why similar hosts, exposed to the same pathogen, can have such different infection outcomes. Our model successfully reproduces several empirically observed phenomena related to transitions between healthy and infected states, including (1) the nonlinear relationship between pathogen inoculum size and infection persistence, (2) the elevated risk of chronic infection during or after treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics, (3) the resolution of gut dysbiosis with fecal microbiota transplants, and (4) the potential protection from infection conferred by probiotics. We then use the model to explore how host-mediated interventions, namely shifts in the supply rates of electron donors (e.g., dietary fiber) and respiratory electron acceptors (e.g., oxygen), can potentially be used to direct gut community assembly. Our study demonstrates how resource competition and ecological feedbacks between the host and the gut microbiota can be critical determinants of human health outcomes. We identify several testable model predictions readymore »for experimental validation.« less
  2. Environments change, for both natural and anthropogenic reasons, which can threaten species persistence. Evolutionary adaptation is a potentially powerful mechanism to allow species to persist in these changing environments. To determine the conditions under which adaptation will prevent extinction (evolutionary rescue), classic quantitative genetics models have assumed a constantly changing environment. They predict that species traits will track a moving environmental optimum with a lag that approaches a constant. If fitness is negative at this lag, the species will go extinct. There have been many elaborations of these models incorporating increased genetic realism. Here, we review and explore the consequences of four ecological complications: non-quadratic fitness functions, interacting density- and trait-dependence, species interactions and fundamental limits to adaptation. We show that non-quadratic fitness functions can result in evolutionary tipping points and existential crises, as can the interaction between density- and trait-dependent mortality. We then review the literature on how interspecific interactions affect adaptation and persistence. Finally, we suggest an alternative theoretical framework that considers bounded environmental change and fundamental limits to adaptation. A research programme that combines theory and experiments and integrates across organizational scales will be needed to predict whether adaptation will prevent species extinction in changing environments. Thismore »article is part of the theme issue ‘Integrative research perspectives on marine conservation’.« less
  3. Biodiversity in natural systems can be maintained either because niche differentiation among competitors facilitates stable coexistence or because equal fitness among neutral species allows for their long-term cooccurrence despite a slow drift toward extinction. Whereas the relative importance of these two ecological mechanisms has been well-studied in the absence of evolution, the role of local adaptive evolution in maintaining biological diversity through these processes is less clear. Here we study the contribution of local adaptive evolution to coexistence in a landscape of interconnected patches subject to disturbance. Under these conditions, early colonists to empty patches may adapt to local conditions sufficiently fast to prevent successful colonization by other preadapted species. Over the long term, the iteration of these local-scale priority effects results in niche convergence of species at the regional scale even though species tend to monopolize local patches. Thus, the dynamics evolve from stable coexistence through niche differentiation to neutral cooccurrence at the landscape level while still maintaining strong local niche segregation. Our results show that neutrality can emerge at the regional scale from local, niche-based adaptive evolution, potentially resolving why ecologists often observe neutral distribution patterns at the landscape level despite strong niche divergence among local communities.