Trade-offs and the evolution of life-histories during range expansion.
Ecol Lett. 2010 Oct; 13(10):1210-20
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This paper presents a novel approach to exploring the evolution of ecological traits during range expansion, potentially providing an important tool for several fields of research, including invasion biology and the ecology of climate change.
A number of areas of ecological research, e.g. invasion biology and climate change, require an assessment of what occurs during range expansion of species into novel habitats. Range expansion is a quite complex process involving ecological interactions, as well as evolution under novel selection regimes. Very few studies, theoretical or empirical, have attempted to examine the interplay between ecological and evolutionary processes in a spatial context during range expansion. This study does just that.
The authors have developed a cellular automaton model that explores the tradeoffs between reproduction, competitive ability and dispersal during the process of range expansion by allowing these traits to evolve in a two dimensional landscape. In a number of simulation experiments, an invading species either expands into empty space and competes with conspecifics or invades "native habitat" already occupied by a resident species. A number of interesting findings ensue.
For example, the initial wave of a species invading new habitat generally consists of individuals who have evolved higher rates of reproduction and dispersal at the expense of competitive ability. After the invasion wave passes, selection begins moving the resident population to increase competitive ability at the expense of reproduction and dispersal ability. They find that the speed of the invasion front is quite sensitive to carrying capacity and maximum potential reproductive output. The introduction of competitors generally acts to slow down the speed of invasion.
The model presented in the paper is, in many respects, quite simple. However, that is probably one of its strengths. I see the approach being presented here as potentially the first step in a very fruitful line of theoretical research exploring the important issues of invasive spread and response to global climate change in a spatial context.
Moloney K: F1000Prime Recommendation of [Burton OJ et al., Ecol Lett 2010, 13(10):1210-20]. In F1000Prime, 30 Nov 2010; DOI: 10.3410/f.6508958.6637057. F1000Prime.com/6508958#eval6637057
F1000Prime Recommendations, Dissents and Comments for [Burton OJ et al., Ecol Lett 2010, 13(10):1210-20]. In F1000Prime, 19 Jun 2013; F1000Prime.com/6508958
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During range-advance, individuals on the expanding edge of the population face a unique selective environment. In this study, we use a three-trait trade-off model to explore the evolution of dispersal, reproduction and competitive ability during range expansion. We show that range expansion greatly affects the evolution of life-history traits due to differing selection pressures at the front of the range compared with those found in stationary and core populations. During range expansion, dispersal and reproduction are selected for on the expanding population front, whereas traits associated with fitness at equilibrium density (competitive ability) show dramatic declines. Additionally, we demonstrate that the presence of a competing species can considerably reduce the extent to which dispersal is selected upwards at an expanding front. These findings have important implications for understanding both the rate of spread of invasive species and the range-shifting dynamics of native species in response to climate change.
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