- Journal Article
Mutualisms are ubiquitous in nature and are thought to play important roles in the maintenance of biodiversity. For biodiversity to be maintained, however, species must coexist in the face of competitive exclusion. Chesson’s coexistence theory provides a mechanistic framework for evaluating coexistence, yet mutualisms are conspicuously absent from coexistence theory and there are no comparable frameworks for evaluating how mutualisms affect the coexistence of competiting species. To address this conceptual gap, I develop theory predicting how multitrophic mutualisms mediate the coexistence of species competing for mutualistic commodities and other limiting resources using the niche and fitness difference concepts of coexistence theory. I demonstrate that failing to account for mutualisms can lead to erroneous conclusions. For example, species might appear to coexist on resources alone, when the simultaneous incorporation of mutualisms actually drives competitive exclusion, or competitive exclusion might occur under resource competition, when in fact, the incorporation of mutualisms generates coexistence. Existing coexistence theory cannot therefore be applied to mutualisms without explicitly considering the underlying biology of the interactions. By discussing how the metrics derived from coexistence theory can be quantified empirically, I show how this theory can be operationalized to evaluate the coexistence consequences of mutualism in natural communities. Show more
Journal / seriesEcology
Pages / Article No.
PublisherEcological Society of America
SubjectCoexistence theory; competition; mycorrhizal interactions; pollination mutualisms
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