Journal article Open Access

Plant coexistence mediated by adaptive foraging preferences of exploiters or mutualists

Křivan, Vlastimil; Revilla, Tomás Augusto

Coexistence of plants depends on their competition for common resources and indirect interactions mediated by shared exploiters or mutualists. These interactions are driven either by changes in animal abundance (density-mediated interactions, e.g., apparent competition), or by changes in animal preferences for plants (behaviorally-mediated interactions). This article studies effects of behaviorally-mediated interactions on two plant population dynamics and animal preference dynamics when animal densities are fixed. Animals can be either adaptive exploiters or adaptive mutualists (e.g., herbivores or pollinators) that maximize their fitness. Analysis of the model shows that adaptive animal preferences for plants can lead to multiple outcomes of plant coexistence with different levels of specialization or generalism for the mediator animal species. In particular, exploiter generalism promotes plant coexistence even when inter-specific competition is too strong to make plant coexistence possible without exploiters, and mutualist specialization promotes plant coexistence at alternative stable states when plant inter-specific competition is weak. Introducing a new concept of generalized isoclines allows us to fully analyze the model with respect to the strength of competitive interactions between plants (weak or strong), and the type of interaction between plants and animals (exploitation or mutualism).

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