Conditional outcomes in mutualistic interactions

Trends Ecol Evol. 1994 Jun;9(6):214-7. doi: 10.1016/0169-5347(94)90246-1.


Interspecific interactions are traditionally displayed in a grid in which each interaction is placed according to its outcome (positive, negative or neutral) for each partner. However, recent field studies consistently find the costs and benefits that determine net effects to vary greatly in both space and time, inevitably causing outcomes within most interactions to vary as well. Interactions show 'conditionality' when costs and benefits, and thus outcomes, are affected in predictable ways by current ecological conditions. The full range of natural outcomes of a given association may reveal far more about its ecological and evolutionary dynamics than does the average outcome at a given place and time.