Consequences of Climate Change for Mutualistic Interactions

Publication Type  Conference Presentation
Authors  Caroline E. Christian
Affiliations  Sonoma State University
Year  2009
Key Words  Mutualism, species interactions, climate change

Mutualisms represent some of the most tightly-linked species interactions and have been shown to have profound effects on the structure of populations and communities and provide important ecosystem services. Recent meta-analyses indicate that many species engaged in mutualistic interactions are responding to climate change through modifications in their geographic distributions, phenology, and organizational hierarchies. In addition, other components of global change, especially biological invasions, interact with changes in climate to affect mutualisms. Here I explore the evidence for altered mutualisms due to climate change and present a framework for predicting the mutualistic interactions most susceptible to alterations. Using a case study approach, I explore approaches to mitigating the impacts of altered mutualisms through land management and conservation planning.


Caroline Christian is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Planning at Sonoma State University. Caroline’s research focuses on key issues in conservation and restoration, and the use of applied systems to test fundamental ideas in ecology. Much of her current research evaluates the effectiveness of prescribed fire and livestock grazing as tools for managing and restoring grassland communities that have been invaded heavily by exotic plant species. She has recently completed a large-scale experiment on this topic in northern California and is currently evaluating the impacts of livestock grazing on the endangered giant kangaroo rat and its grassland habitat in central California at Carrizo Plains National Monument. Caroline did her doctoral work at UC Davis, where she evaluated the impacts of an invasive ant species on a seed dispersal mutualism involving native ant and plant species in South African fynbos. She also works with non-profit organizations to implement science-based conservation planning and land management.

Conference Name  2009 State of the Laguna Conference and Science Symposium
Presentation Type: 
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