In ecological communities, numerous species coexist and affect each others' population levels via various types of interspecific interactions. Previous ecological theory explaining multispecies coexistence tended to focus on a single interaction type, such as antagonism, competition, or mutualism, and its consequences on population dynamics. Hence, it remains unclear what, if any, contribution multiple coexisting interaction types have on the multispecies coexistence. Here, we show that the coexistence of multiple interaction types can be essential for multispecies coexistence. We present a simple model in which the exploiter and mutualist adaptively switch between two competing resource species. An adaptive mutualist, which favors the more abundant species, provides a mechanism of majority-advantage and, thus, potentially inhibits the coexistence of resource species. In the absence of an exploiter, an adaptive mutualist leads to competitive exclusion at the resource species level. However, the coexistence of an adaptive exploiter and a mutualist allows the coexistence of all species in the community, because the mutualist-mediated "winner" tends to be suppressed by the adaptive exploiter. The mutualist indirectly increases the abundance of the exploiter through mutualistic interactions, thereby indirectly supporting this coexistence mechanism. In fact, coexistence may occur even if the exploiter or mutualist alone cannot mediate the coexistence of two resources. We conclude that the coexistence of mutualism and antagonism may be the key to the persistence of the four-species module in the presence of adaptive switching.
- Community persistence
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics