The gift that keeps on giving: Why does biological diversity accumulate around mutualisms?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

12 Scopus citations


It is increasingly apparent that mutualisms are central components of ecological communities, generating linkages among species in ways that lead to rich and persistent assemblages. I propose here an underlying rationale for why biological diversity tends to accumulate around mutualisms. I first highlight four key features of mutualism: most involve one-way or two-way exchange of resources; these resources are commonly used by many different mutualists; as they are difficult or impossible to modulate to mutualists' needs, there would appear to be an advantage to overproduction; and many species other than mutualists subsist on these resources. As a consequence, I argue, (a) interaction networks form around mutualisms that extend well beyond the mutualists themselves; (b) non-mutualists taking advantage of one species' resources may often be mutualists of other species in the community; and (c) different mutualistic networks are also linked, because successful mutualisms often generate resources that form the base of yet other mutualisms. I present three examples of plant/pollinator interactions that illustrate how mutualisms contribute to the accumulation of biological diversity in their local habitats. I conclude by offering a set of predictions to move these ideas further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPlant-Animal Interactions
Subtitle of host publicationSource of Biodiversity
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783030668778
ISBN (Print)9783030668761
StatePublished - May 3 2021


  • Biodiversity
  • Community
  • Competition
  • Consumer/resource interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'The gift that keeps on giving: Why does biological diversity accumulate around mutualisms?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this