The Context Dependency of Species Interactions
The sign and strength of species interactions can vary with biotic and abiotic context. For example, under environmentally stressful conditions, two species that normally compete for resources may work together to reduce the impact of stress. Although much research has demonstrated how two species may interact differently with context, much remains to be done. For example: many species interactions can cascade throughout the food web and indirectly affect third party species; interactions can have multiple components with unique impacts (e.g. consumptive vs. nonconsumptive predator effects); and multiple biotic and abiotic factors may change asynchronously across the landscape. In addition, local and regional (biogeographic) scale factors must be considered, so we often examine interactions both within and across estuaries using observational and comparative experimental approaches. Given anthropogenic changes to climate and biodiversity, the study of these context dependencies is needed in order for community ecology to become a more predictive discipline.