Mutualisms in a warming world

Austin R. Cruz, Goggy Davidowitz, Christopher M. Moore, Judith L. Bronstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Predicting the impacts of global warming on mutualisms poses a significant challenge given the functional and life history differences that usually exist among interacting species. However, this is a critical endeavour since virtually all species on Earth depend on other species for survival and/or reproduction. The field of thermal ecology can provide physiological and mechanistic insights, as well as quantitative tools, for addressing this challenge. Here, we develop a conceptual and quantitative framework that connects thermal physiology to species' traits, species' traits to interacting mutualists' traits and interacting traits to the mutualism. We first identify the functioning of reciprocal mutualism-relevant traits in diverse systems as the key temperature-dependent mechanisms driving the interaction. We then develop metrics that measure the thermal performance of interacting mutualists' traits and that approximate the thermal performance of the mutualism itself. This integrated approach allows us to additionally examine how warming might interact with resource/nutrient availability and affect mutualistic species' associations across space and time. We offer this framework as a synthesis of convergent and critical issues in mutualism science in a changing world, and as a baseline to which other ecological complexities and scales might be added.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1432-1451
Number of pages20
JournalEcology letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • climate change
  • global warming
  • mutualism
  • species interactions
  • thermal ecology
  • thermal physiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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