Title of symposium:
Exploring the consequences of anthropogenic change for symbiotic species in tropical ecosystems

Symposium Summary
Symbiotic interactions between species, ranging from mutualisms to parasitism have been central to the study of species interactions. Theory suggests that once mutualism is established and the genotype is fixed in the population, reverting to behaviour that is more selfish is unlikely. However, there is ample evidence that the outcome of symbiotic interactions is context-dependent. The magnitude of benefits received by partners often depends on the abiotic or biotic environment. Hence anthropogenic changes to tropical ecosystems are expected to impact the outcomes of symbioses in terms of the costs and benefits for partners. This symposium will seek to answer the question: “How will tomorrow’s tropical conditions affect symbiotic relationships?” We hope this symposium will contribute in establishing which environmental factors drive conflicts of interest between partners and to what extent. Little is known about whether disturbance favours parasites switching to mutualistic relations or if the opposite pattern is true (or indeed whether or not any generalization can be made). Diverse systems exhibit reversions to autonomy (both partners becoming independent), and this might be a common and unexplored outcome for symbiotic partners in response to anthropogenic change. In addition, occurrence of cheaters and co-evolution of exploiters in symbiotic systems may result in evolutionary selection towards cooperation, through initial evolution of tolerance to negative fitness impacts of parasites/cheaters. Understanding the impacts of anthropogenic change on symbiotic interactions and the potential cascading effects such changes might have is vital for predictinh the overall diversity and stability of ecosystems.

List of speakers and presentation titles:

Petr Klimes: Ant-trophobiont interactions inside nests in tropical trees: opening the black box

Joel Sachs: The evolution and breakdown of plant bacterial mutualisms

Mickal Houadria: Mutualistic ant partners go on “Leave” in oil palm Ppantation

Yek Sze Huei: The diversity of ant-plant symbioses in the diminishing South East Asia forests

Jaya Seelan: Carnivorous mushroom and nematode interactions: Potential in agrocultivation

Chua Wanji: Diversity and network structure of Crematogaster-Macaranga interactions in different habitats