Mutualism

Facilitation between nesting wading birds and alligators

Facilitation (a positive between-species exchange mediated through habitat improvement) is widespread and being increasingly recognized for its importance in structuring communities and shaping species’ distributions. For my thesis research, I assessed how a keystone species is affected by associating with a group of organisms it often consumes—yet also protects. Wading birds (herons, egrets, storks, ibises, spoonbills) nest near alligators in the Everglades, probably because alligator presence deters devastating nest predators such as raccoons and opossums.