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Eco-evolutionary feedbacks during experimental range expansions

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Fronhofer, E. A. & Altermatt, F. Eco-evolutionary feedbacks during experimental range expansions Nature Communications, 2015, 6, 6844. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms7844

Abstract: Understanding biological range expansions and invasions is of great ecological and economical interest. Importantly, spatial dynamics can be deeply affected by rapid evolution depending on the ecological context. Using experimental evolution in replicated microcosm landscapes and numerical analyses we show experimentally that the ecological process of range expansions leads to the evolution of increased dispersal. This evolutionary change counter-intuitively feeds back on (macro-)ecological patterns affecting the spatial distribution of population densities. While existing theory suggests that densities decrease from range cores to range margins due to K-selection, we show the reverse to be true when competition is considered explicitly including resource dynamics. We suggest that a dispersal-foraging trade-off, leading to more ‘prudent’ foraging at range margins, is the driving mechanism behind the macroecological pattern reported. In conclusion, rapid multi-trait evolution and eco-evolutionary feedbacks are highly relevant for understanding macroecological patterns and designing appropriate conservation strategies.

The paper can be found here: http://www.emanuelfronhofer.net/publications.html

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Code for Fronhofer, E. A. & Altermatt, F. Eco-evolutionary feedbacks during experimental range expansions Nat. Commun., 2015, 6, 6844

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