Facilitation and plant phenotypic evolution

Trends Plant Sci. 2021 Sep;26(9):913-923. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2021.04.005. Epub 2021 Jun 7.


While antagonistic interactions between plants have been a major topic of eco-evolutionary research, little evidence exists on the evolution of positive plant interactions (i.e., plant facilitation). Here, we first summarize the existing empirical evidence on the role of facilitation as a selection pressure on plants. Then, we develop a theoretical eco-evolutionary framework based on fitness-trait functions and interaction effectiveness that provides predictions for how facilitation-related traits may evolve. As evolution may act at levels beyond the individual (such as groups or species), we discuss the subject of the units of evolutionary selection through facilitation. Finally, we use the proposed formal evolutionary framework for facilitation to identify areas of future research based on the knowledge gaps detected.

Keywords: facilitation effectiveness; facilitation-mediated trait evolution; plant facilitation; plant–plant interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Phenotype
  • Plants* / genetics