Toward spatio-temporal delineation of positive interactions in ecology


Given unprecedented rates of biodiversity loss, there is an urgency to better understand the ecological consequences of interactions among organisms that may lost or altered. Positive interactions among organisms of the same or different species that directly or indirectly improve performance of at least one participant can structure populations and communities and control ecosystem process. However, we are still in need of synthetic approaches to better understand how positive interactions scale spatio-temporally across a range of taxa and ecosystems. Here, we synthesize two complementary approaches to more rigorously describe positive interactions and their consequences among organisms, across taxa, and over spatio-temporal scales. In the first approach, which we call the mechanistic approach, we make a distinction between two principal mechanisms of facilitation—habitat modification and resource modification. Considering the differences in these two mechanisms is critical because it delineates the potential spatio-temporal bounds over which a positive interaction can occur. We offer guidance on improved sampling regimes for quantification of these mechanistic interactions and their consequences. Second, we present a trait-based approach in which traits of facilitators or traits of beneficiaries can modulate their magnitude of effect or how they respond to either of the positive interaction mechanisms, respectively. Therefore, both approaches can be integrated together by quantifying the degree to which a focal facilitator's or beneficiary's traits explain the magnitude of a positive effect in space and time. Furthermore, we demonstrate how field measurements and analytical techniques can be used to collect and analyze data to test the predictions presented herein. We conclude by discussing how these approaches can be applied to contemporary challenges in ecology, such as conservation and restoration and suggest avenues for future research.




Tumolo, Benjamin B., Leonardo Calle, Heidi E. Anderson, Michelle A. Briggs, Sam Carlson, Michael J. MacDonald, J. Holden Reinert, and Lindsey K. Albertson. “Toward Spatio‐temporal Delineation of Positive Interactions in Ecology.” Ecology and Evolution 10, no. 17 (August 6, 2020): 9026–9036. doi:10.1002/ece3.6616.
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