Phenotypic Plasticity and Species Coexistence

Phenotypic plasticity is ubiquitous in nature in response to both biotic and abiotic conditions and can affect all phenotypic traits. A common assumption is that plasticity can promote the coexistence of competing species. We are challenging this assumption using a combination theory, modeling, and field experiments. Modern coexistence theory suggests that phenotypic change could alter mechanisms that either promote or hinder stable coexistence, however, a tight integration of rapid phenotypic change in coexistence theory remains elusive. In addition, we believe that current empirical evidence for the role of plasticity could benefit from the application of experimental methods which we have begun applying in the field. We will to continue these investigations in Duckweed and in terrestrial plants.  

Hypothesized impacts of plasticity on stabilizing niche differences and average fitness differences which dictate the the outcome of competition. Turcotte & Levine (Trends in Ecology & Evolution, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2016.07.013)

Hypothesized impacts of plasticity on stabilizing niche differences and average fitness differences which dictate the the outcome of competition. Turcotte & Levine (Trends in Ecology & Evolution, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2016.07.013)

Field experiment manipulating plasticity in a competition experiment. 

Field experiment manipulating plasticity in a competition experiment. 

Testing how the identity of neighbors impacts plasticity and ultimately coexistence.

Testing how the identity of neighbors impacts plasticity and ultimately coexistence.

Relevant publications

Critical review of the empirical evidence for the role of plasticity in coexistence framed by modern coexistence theory --> Turcotte & Levine  TREE 2016

Large field experiment manipulating plasticity across 5 competing plant species --> In prep