Climate change – who can keep up?

Evolution has no forethought. An artic fox turns white at a particular time in winter due to the selection pressures experienced by its ancestors. This adaptation helped foxes in the past blend into the snowy background and more easily disguise themselves from prey. But what if timing of first snowfall starts to move later and later into the year or becomes more unpredictable? This is a question of phenology, the … Continue reading

How to “train” good cleaners

How are mutualisms maintained when there is so much incentive for partners to cheat?? Do species interactions shift from cooperative to antagonistic or vise versa? If so, how? I’m very fascinated by these questions, as many ecologists are. In my previous post, I wrote about crayfish-worm symbiosis and how their interactions could shift from mutualism to parasitism, depending on the worm abundance. Today, I’ll talk about the work by Gingins … Continue reading

What is that plant doing over there?

Why do we see a species growing on one hillside and not another? Why are some fields dominated by native plants, and others exotics? These are questions addressing the establishment of plants in different habitats, a core concept in ecology with many theories to go along with it. These theories split into a mix of those looking at (1) characteristics of the environment (extrinsic factors, like soil moisture or propagule … Continue reading

Ants aiding ants on Acacia

A regular theme on this blog (here, here, here, etc…) is how fascinated all of our contributors are by the factors that promote and maintain biodiversity. Personally, I am really into some of these such as positive interactions between species, such as mutualisms (like the legume-rhizobium mutualism I study) and facilitative effects between species. In some systems, negative interactions between species can result in indirect facilitation of other species by … Continue reading

Too much of a good thing

I was at the annual ESA meeting in Minneapolis last week and had an opportunity to attend lots of interesting talks. One of my favorites was about crayfish and their symbiotic crayfish worm (check out the link here and here for abstracts). The talk by Petipa stood out to me because he used a classic succession framework to predict community assemblage of symbiotic worm species on crayfish host. Plus, his … Continue reading

A trip along the diversity effects highway: a new and exciting fork in the road

The dynamic dune ecosystem along Lake Michigan was where I first came to appreciate nature as a young child (granted, I was in the water most of the time). Blissfully unaware of the pioneering work of Cowles (1899), it was my time wandering forward and backward through successional time as I matured into a young man that put me on the road to studying ecology. So, when I came across … Continue reading

No return of diversity?

In the past few decades, there has been an increasing concern and therefore research into the eutrophication of natural ecosystems caused by high levels of nitrogen addition. Some studies, such as Foster and Gross 1998 and Clark and Tilman 2008 (among others), have shown that nitrogen fertilization leads to a decrease in the diversity of communities. However, the long-term consequences of these actions are not well understood. How quickly do the nitrogen … Continue reading

All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from Aphids

In our lab, we throw around the terms “eco-evolutionary dynamics” or “eco-evolutionary feedbacks” pretty loosely to describe any interactions between ecological and evolutionary processes (two more terms that are defined pretty abstractly). But we can do a better job of defining eco-evolutionary feedbacks, and a recent paper by Martin Turcotte, Dave Reznick, and Daniel Hare reminded me of that. This is another paper from the Eco-Evo special feature in The … Continue reading

Are invaders bigger and better in their introduced ranges?

It is hypothesized that invasive species are doing something fundamentally different in their introduced ranges – they seem to grow faster and larger, spread more aggressively, and outcompete native species, lowering biodiversity. However, these assumptions have surprisingly little evidence to back them up. In my last post, I wrote about Powell et al. 2013’s article, that found invaders may not be as bad for native biodiversity as we think. In … Continue reading

Changing world, changing interactions

When I think of how a species might be affected by global change, I tend to focus first on the abiotic: distribution maps predicting species range shifts based on temperature and precipitation come to mind. But obviously it’s more complicated than that—global change is bound to affect biotic factors as well, particularly interactions between species. This makes predicting the consequences of global change more complicated. If species A interacts with … Continue reading