Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

The American Naturalist






The University of Chicago

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



A fundamental challenge in ecology continues to be identifying mechanisms that stabilize community dynamics. By altering the interactions within a community, eco-evolutionary feedbacks may play a role in community stability. Indeed, recent empirical and theoretical studies demonstrate that these feedbacks can stabilize or destabilize communities and, moreover, that this sometimes depends on the relative rate of ecological to evolutionary processes. So far, theory on how eco-evolutionary feedbacks impact stability exists only for a few special cases. In our work, we develop a general theory for determining the effects of eco-evolutionary feedbacks on stability in communities with an arbitrary number of interacting species and evolving traits for when evolution is slow and fast. We characterize how eco-evolutionary feedbacks lead to stable communities that would otherwise be unstable, and vice versa. Additionally, we show how one can identify the roles of direct and indirect feedbacks between ecological and evolutionary processes on stability and how the effects of those feedbacks depend on the rate of evolution relative to the ecological timescales. Applying our methods to models of competing species and food chains, we demonstrate how the functional form of trade-offs, genetic correlations between traits, and the rate of evolution determine whether eco-evolutionary feedbacks stabilize or destabilize communities.

Available for download on Friday, March 01, 2019