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Phenotypic Plasticity Opposes Species Invasions by Altering Fitness Surface
 

Summary: Phenotypic Plasticity Opposes Species
Invasions by Altering Fitness Surface
Scott D. Peacor1,2*
, Stefano Allesina3
, Rick L. Riolo4
, Mercedes Pascual3,4
1 Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, United States of America, 2 Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America, 3 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America, 4 Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America
Understanding species invasion is a central problem in ecology because invasions of exotic species severely impact
ecosystems, and because invasions underlie fundamental ecological processes. However, the influence on invasions of
phenotypic plasticity, a key component of many species interactions, is unknown. We present a model in which
phenotypic plasticity of a resident species increases its ability to oppose invaders, and plasticity of an invader increases
its ability to displace residents. Whereas these effects are expected due to increased fitness associated with phenotypic
plasticity, the model additionally reveals a new and unforeseen mechanism by which plasticity affects invasions:
phenotypic plasticity increases the steepness of the fitness surface, thereby making invasion more difficult, even by
phenotypically plastic invaders. Our results should apply to phenotypically plastic responses to any fluctuating
environmental factors including predation risk, and to other factors that affect the fitness surface such as the
generalism of predators. We extend the results to competition, and argue that phenotypic plasticity's effect on the
fitness surface will destabilize coexistence at local scales, but stabilize coexistence at regional scales. Our study

  

Source: Allesina, Stefano - Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago
Pascual, Mercedes - Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan

 

Collections: Biology and Medicine; Environmental Sciences and Ecology