Speciation, diversification, and coexistence of sessile species that compete for space

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Speciation, diversification, and competition between species challenge the stability of complex ecosystems. Laboratory experiments often focus on one or two species competing under conditions where they may grow exponentially. Field studies, in contrast, emphasize multi-species communities characterized by many types of ecological interactions. A general problem is to understand conditions that support a dynamically maintained coexistence of many species in an ecosystem over a long time span. In the present paper we propose a lattice model of multiple competing and evolving sessile species. When allowing the interspecies interactions to mutate, we obtain coexistence of many species in a complex ecosystem, provided that there is a cost for each interaction. The diversity reached by the model incorporating speciation is found to be substantially higher than in the case when entirely new species appear due to immigration from outside of the considered ecosystem. The species self-organize their spatial distribution through competitive interactions to create many patches, implicitly protecting each other from competitively superior species, and speciation in each patch leads the system to high diversity. We also show that species that exist a long time tend to have a relatively small population, as this allows them to avoid encounter with competitive invaders.

TidsskriftPloS One
Udgave nummer5
Sider (fra-til)e96665
StatusUdgivet - 12 maj 2014

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