2023-10-13 Seminar Report

A central assumption in most ecological models is that the interactions in a community operate only between pairs of species. However, two species may interactively affect the growth of a focal species. Although interactions among three or more species, called higher-order interactions, have the potential to modify our theoretical understanding of coexistence, ecologists lack clear expectations for how these interactions shape community structure. In this talk, Theo Gibbs (Ph. D, Princeton Univ.) will analyze two different sets of assumptions for how higher-order interactions impact the dynamics of competing species and show that they lead to differing outcomes. When higher-order interactions are sampled from unconstrained probability distributions, they are unlikely to generate widespread coexistence. In fact, using an analytical technique from statistical physics, he will show many — though not all — of the qualitative rules derived for pairwise interactions still apply to the higher-order case. Higher-order interactions that have specific relationships with the underlying pairwise interactions, however, can stabilize coexistence in diverse communities. He will conclude by briefly discussing ongoing experimental work that seeks to determine whether or not the dynamics of annual plant communities are structured by higher-order interactions.

Reported by Keiichi Morita

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