Recent studies suggest that environmental changes may tip the balance between species that interact with each other, leading to the extinction of one or more species. While it is recognized that evolution will alter the way environmental changes directly affect individual species, the interactions between species force us to also consider the evolution of species interactions themselves. We use simple models of competition, predation, and mutualism to evaluate the effect of coevolution on the abundance of interacting species when climatic changes favor one species over another. In cases where the species have conflicting interests (i.e., where selection on one species for increased strength of the interaction is detrimental to the other, such as an organism becoming more aggressive towards competitors), we show that coevolution reduces the effects of climate change, leading to smaller changes in abundances and reduced chances of extinction. Conversely, when the species have nonconflicting interests (i.e., where selection for increased interaction strength on one species benefits the other, such as an organism avoiding competition with other species), coevolution increases the effects of climate change. Thus, gaining a better understanding of the nature of the coevolution between interacting species is critical for understanding how communities respond to a changing climate.
Northfield TD, Ives AR (2013) Coevolution and the Effects of Climate Change on Interacting Species. PLoS Biol 11(10): e1001685. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001685