Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 433–443
Much is known about facilitation, but virtually nothing about the underlying genetic and evolutionary consequences of this important interaction. We assessed the potential of phenotypic differences in facilitative effects of a foundation species to determine the composition of an Alpine community in Arizona. Two phenotypes of Geum rossii occur along a gradient of disturbance, with ‘tight’ competitive cushions in stable conditions and ‘loose’ facilitative cushions in disturbed conditions. A common-garden study suggested that field-based traits may have a genetic basis. Field experiments showed that the reproductive fitness of G. rossii cushions decreased with increasing facilitation. Finally, using a dual-lattice model we showed that including the cost and benefit of facilitation may contribute to the co-occurrence of genotypes with contrasting facilitative effects. Our results indicate that changes in community composition due to phenotypic differences in facilitative effects of a foundation species may in turn affect selective pressures on the foundation species.