J. N. Holland, Judith L Bronstein

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

24 Scopus citations


Fundamental to the discipline of ecology is understanding how and why interactions between populations of different species influence each other's population growth, density, dynamics, and stability. Mutualism is defined as an interaction between individuals of different species that results in positive (beneficial) effects on per capita reproduction and/or survival of the interacting populations. Mutualisms are increasingly recognized as fundamental to patterns and processes within ecological systems. The degree of interdependency of mutualists ranges from obligate to facultative, including pairwise associations of obligate-obligate, obligate-facultative, and facultative-facultative interactions. The term mutualism is not a synonym to be used interchangeably with other terms such as symbiosis, cooperation, and facilitation, although there are ecological and evolutionary parallels among them. While knowledge of mutualism lags behind that of other interspecific interactions, a few generalizations have emerged, including that nearly all mutualisms involve both benefits and costs; that benefits and costs often exhibit density-dependent functional responses; that the outcome of mutualisms are often context dependent; and that mutualisms often inherently entail conflicts of interests that may threaten their ecological and evolutionary stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Ecology, Five-Volume Set
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780080914565
ISBN (Print)9780080454054
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


  • Benefits
  • Conditionality
  • Context dependency
  • Costs
  • Functional responses
  • Interaction outcomes
  • Interspecific interactions
  • Mutualism
  • Population ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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