I am interested in the evolution and maintenance of cooperation between species.
In my research and collaborations, I ask the question: Why do symbionts provide
services to a host at a cost to themselves? One idea is that cooperation between
species can be enforced if individuals are able to actively reward good partners or
punish less cooperative ones. Using the legume-rhizobia mutualism and the symbiosis
between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizae, I investigate punishment (sanction) mechanisms
and other methods of indirect resource control by partners. As a Darwin Fellow, I am
working with Dr. Lynn Adler to examine cooperative stability in an obligate pollination mutualism.
Applying evolutionary theory to argonomic systems:
I am also interested in how to integrate evolutionary theory with practical on-farm
application, with the goal of understanding how agricultural practices influence the
performance and evolution of symbiont communities in cropping systems. Root symbionts
(mycorrhizae, rhizobia) provide a low-tech and sustainable source of nutrients to crop
plants. Our ability to optimize these benefits depends on an evolutionary assessment of
the selection pressures (e.g. plant breeding, fertilizer use, crop rotation) that determine
mutualistic tendencies of symbionts in natural and agricultural systems.
Working towards global agricultural sustainability:
I am currently involved in a UN sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Science
and Technology for Development (IAASTD) global report. This is a two year project utilizing
scientific expertise to provide policy-relevant global assessments on how agricultural science
and technology can contribute to a range of development and sustainability goals. http://www.agassessment.org/
Atsushi Kawakita and Makoto Kato, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan http://188.8.131.52/
Kiers, E.T., Rousseau, R. A. & R. F. Denison. (2006). Measured sanctions: legume hosts detect
quantitative variation in rhizobium cooperation and punish accordingly. Evolutionary Ecology Research,
Link to EER
Kiers, E.T. & M. G. A. van der Heijden. (2006). Mutualistic stability in the arbuscular mycorrhizal
symbiosis: exploring hypotheses of evolutionary cooperation. Ecology, 87, 1627-1636.
Denison, R.F. & Kiers, E.T. (2004a). Why are most rhizobia beneficial to their host plants, rather
than parasitic? Microbes & Infection, 6, 1235-1239.
Denison, R.F. & Kiers, E.T. (2004b). Lifestyle alternatives for rhizobia: mutualism, parasitism, and
forgoing symbiosis. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 237, 187-193.
Kiers, E.T., Rousseau, R.A., West, S.A. & Denison, R.F. (2003)
Host sanctions and the legume-rhizobium mutualism. Nature, 425, 78-81.
Denison, R.F., Kiers, E.T & West, S.A. (2003). Darwinian Agriculture: When can humans find solutions
beyond the reach of natural selection? Quarterly Review of Biology, 78, 145-160.
Kiers, E.T., West, S.A. & Denison, R.F. (2002). Mediating Mutualisms: the influence of farm management
practices on the evolutionary maintenance of symbiont cooperation. Journal of Applied Ecology,
West, S.A., Kiers, E.T, Simms, E.L. & Denison, R.F. (2002). Sanctions and Mutualism Stability:
Why do rhizobia fix nitrogen? Proceedings of the Royal Society Series Biological Sciences, 269, 685-694.
West, S.A., Kiers, E.T., Pen, I. and R.F. Denison (2002). Sanctions and Mutualism Stability:
When should less beneficial mutualists be tolerated? Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 15, 830-837.
Kiers, E.T., Lovelock, C.E., Krueger, E.L. & Herre, E.A. (2000). Differential effects of tropical arbuscular
mycorrhizal fungal inocula on root colonization and tree seedling growth: implications for tropical forest
diversity. Ecology Letters, 3, 106-113
Invited Book Chapters
Kiers, E.T. , West, S.A. and R.F. Denison (In press) Sanctions and the evolution of cooperation in the
legume-rhizobia symbiosis. In: Nitrogen Fixation: Origin, Applications and Research Progress