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Evolutionary response of plant interaction traits to nutrient enrichment modifies the assembly and structure of antagonistic-mutualistic communities

Abstract : 1. Nutrient enrichment is one of the major threats acting on natural communities. The ecological consequences of this disturbance for ecosystems have been largely studied, but we still have little knowledge on its evolutionary effects at community scale. We are interested in the evolutionary consequences of nutrient enrichment for plant interaction traits, embedded in complex communities made of antagonistic and mutualistic interactions. 2. We built a mathematical model of a plant-pollinator-herbivore community confronted by nutrient enrichment. Plants have an interaction trait that is involved in an ecological trade-off. An increase in this trait, leading to more attractive phenotypes, increases the strength of both interactions with pollinators and herbivores. A lower value of this trait leads to defensive phenotypes with weak interactions with both herbivores and pollinators. We use the framework of adaptive dynamics to study the evolutionary dynamics of this kind of traits and the consequences for community dynamics. 3. We found that evolutionary dynamics of plants modify the assembly of the community along a nutrient enrichment gradient. Due to top-down controls, herbivory leads to priority effects when only ecological dynamics are considered. Evolution of the plant interaction trait alleviates this priority effect and facilitates community assembly. In the three-species community, we find that nutrient enrichment leads to more defended phenotypes of plants, at the expense of pollinator attraction. 4. We find that, when the ecological trade-off between pollination and herbivory is convex, evolution of interaction trait may lead to plant diversification. Two plant phenotypes then coexist in the community, one which is highly attractive and one which is highly defensive. 5. Synthesis. Our results suggest that accounting for evolutionary dynamics will profoundly modify the dynamics of communities in the face of nutrient enrichment. Both community assembly and equilibrium dynamics are altered and enrichment may even lead to diversification. These results advocate for the development of an eco-evolutionary theory of nutrient enrichment and may be particularly important in agro-ecosystems relying on fertilization.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-02636248
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Submitted on : Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 8:16:44 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, December 10, 2020 - 12:32:41 PM

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Ewen Georgelin, Nicolas Loeuille. Evolutionary response of plant interaction traits to nutrient enrichment modifies the assembly and structure of antagonistic-mutualistic communities. Journal of Ecology, Wiley, 2016, 104 (1), pp.193-205. ⟨10.1111/1365-2745.12485⟩. ⟨hal-02636248⟩

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