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A Model of Simultaneous Evolution of Competitive Ability and Herbivore Resistance in a Perennial Plant

Uriarte, Maria; Canham, Charles D.; Root, Richard B.

Plant populations often experience the joint effects of intraspecific competition and herbivory, yet the impact of the interaction of these two factors on the outcome of evolution is largely unknown. Here, we develop a spatially explicit simulation model to examine interactions between the evolution of herbivore resistance and competitive ability in the goldenrod Solidago altissima. We define competitive ability as either competitive effect, the ability of a plant to deplete resources and make them unavailable to competitors, or competitive response, the ability to grow, survive, and reproduce despite depletion of resources by neighboring competitors. We considered symmetric and asymmetric modes of competition and explored the following questions: (1) Does the selective effect of competition differ for the two components of competitive ability? (2) What are the effects of the evolution of competitive ability and resistance on each other? (3) Can trade-offs between competitive ability and resistance emerge, given no relationship between these two traits prior to selection? Our results showed that competitive response evolved quickly regardless of the mode of competition, but self-suppression hindered the evolution of competitive effect. The evolution of resistance appeared to be independent of the evolution of competitive ability. Intraspecific competition was the major selective force in our model. At natural levels of herbivory, selection for resistance played a secondary role in structuring the population. Resistant genotypes were only favored at very low resistance costs. At high cost levels, the costs of maintaining resistance far outweighed the benefits. The selective forces of competition and herbivory resulted in trade-offs between competitive response and herbivore resistance, but only at low costs of resistance. Vigorous growth associated with a high competitive response might translate into trade-offs between herbivore tolerance and resistance. The strong selective effects of competitors, coupled with the weaker selection from herbivores, suggest that plant traits directly associated with growth that confer tolerance to both competitors and consumers may be the targets of selection.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Ecological Society of America
Published Here
November 8, 2014