Symbioses between species, ranging from mutualisms (positive for both species) through commensalisms (positive for one species, neutral for the other) to parasitism (positive for one species, negative for the other). Such interactions, since they benefit at least one of the interacting species, are of great importance for generation and maintenance of species diversity, particularly in species‐rich ecological communities, such as tropical ecosystems. Theory suggests that once mutualism is established and the genotype is fixed in the population, reverting to more selfish behavior is unlikely. However there is ample evidence that the outcome of symbiotic interactions is context-dependent. The magnitude of the benefits received by one or both partners often depends on the abiotic or biotic environment. Hence anthropogenic changes to tropical ecosystems are expected to impact the outcomes of symbioses in terms of the cost and benefits for partners.
This symposium will seek to answer the question: “To what extent will tomorrow’s tropical conditions affect parasitic/mutualistic relationships?” This symposium will be mainly based on insect interactions, but any topic with a particular focus on systems with smaller numbers of partners, where fitness consequences can be easily quantified will be considered. We wish to establish which environmental factors drive conflicts of interest between partners and to what extent. Little is known if disturbance favors parasites switching to mutualistic relations or of the opposite pattern is true (or indeed whether or not any generalization can be made). In addition diverse systems exhibit reversions to autonomy, and this might be a common and unexplored outcome for symbiotic partners in response to anthropogenic change. Altered costs and benefits for partners or reversion to autonomy might increase extinction for the taxa concerned. The occurrence of cheaters and co-evolution of exploiters in mutualistic systems may on one hand, through evolutionary selection towards cooperation, provide resilience to the mutualistic partners. On the other hand change in biotic and abiotic conditions may shift the costs and benefits and reduce the mutualistic resilience and favor a parasitic shift.
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