Biodiversity Science ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (4): 345-354.doi: 10.17520/biods.2017034

• Reviews • Previous Article     Next Article

Advances in species coexistence theory

Chengjin Chu1, *(), Youshi Wang1, Yu Liu1, Lin Jiang2, Fangliang He1, 3   

  1. 1 SYSU-Alberta Joint Laboratory for Biodiversity Conservation, State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol, School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    2 School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA 30332
    3 Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada T6G 2H1
  • Received:2017-02-12 Accepted:2017-04-01 Online:2017-04-20
  • Chu Chengjin E-mail:chuchjin@mail.sysu.edu.cn

How species coexist locally is a fundamental question in community ecology. Classical coexistence theory underscores the importance of niche differentiation between species and focuses on specific coexistence mechanisms. Studies on these specific coexistence mechanisms have profoundly contributed to understanding species coexistence at the local scale and inspired ecologists to create a more general contemporary coexistence theory. Under the contemporary coexistence theory, species differences are categorized into two groups: niche differences and average fitness differences. Niche differences serve as stabilizing mechanisms that promote species coexistence, whereas average fitness differences are related to equalizing mechanisms that drive competitive exclusion. In this paper we provide a detailed review of contemporary coexistence theory, including its definition and theoretical models, empirical tests of these models and their applications to biodiversity studies. Coexistence theory has applications in a number of other areas including biodiversity conservation and management in a changing world beyond the basic concept of how communities are structured. We show how contemporary coexistence theory has advanced the niche-based classic coexistence theory, helping us to better understand the underlying mechanisms of community assembly and biodiversity maintenance.

Key words: niche, stabilizing mechanisms, equalizing mechanisms, niche differences, average fitness differences

Fig. 1

The conceptual diagram of contemporary coexistence theory. Species differences are categorized into two groups: niche differences and average fitness differences. Niche differences maintain species stable coexistence, and average fitness differences drive competitive exclusion. For a given community, the balance between niche differences and average fitness differences determines the outcome of competition. In the gray region, niche differences are larger than average fitness differences, which results in stable coexistence. In the white region, average fitness differences are stronger than niche differences, which results in competitive exclusion. Niche differences correspond to stabilizing mechanisms, and average fitness differences correspond to equalizing mechanisms."

1 Ackerly DD, Cornwell WK (2007) A trait-based approach to community assembly: partitioning of species trait values into within- and among-community components. Ecology Letters, 10, 135-145.
2 Adler PB, Dalgleish HJ, Ellner SP (2012) Forecasting plant community impacts of climate variability and change: when do competitive interactions matter? Journal of Ecology, 100, 478-487.
3 Adler PB, Ellner SP, Levine JM (2010) Coexistence of perennial plants: an embarrassment of niches. Ecology Letters, 13, 1019-1029.
4 Adler PB, Fajardo A, Kleinhesselink AR, Kraft NJB (2013) Trait-based tests of coexistence mechanisms. Ecology Letters, 16, 1294-1306.
5 Adler PB, HilleRisLambers J, Levine JM (2007) A niche for neutrality. Ecology Letters, 10, 95-104.
6 Angert AL, LaDeau SL, Ostfeld RS (2013) Climate change and species interactions: ways forward. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1297, 1-7.
7 Bell G (2001) Neutral macroecology. Science, 293, 2413-2418.
8 Carroll IT, Cardinale BJ, Nisbet RM (2011) Niche and fitness differences relate the maintenance of diversity to ecosystem function. Ecology, 92, 1157-1165.
9 Chase JM, Leibold MA (2003) Ecological Niches: Linking Classical and Contemporary Approaches. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
10 Chave J (2004) Neutral theory and community ecology. Ecology Letters, 7, 241-253.
11 Chen L, Mi XC, Ma KP (2014) Niche differentiation and its consequence on biodiversity maintenance in forest communities. Chinese Bulletin of Life Sciences, 26, 112-117. (in Chinese)
[陈磊, 米湘成, 马克平 (2014) 生态位分化与森林群落物种多样性维持研究展望. 生命科学, 26, 112-117.]
12 Chesson P (1985) Coexistence of competitors in spatially and temporally varying environments: a look at the combined effects of different sorts of variability. Theoretical Population Biology, 28, 263-287.
13 Chesson P (1994) Multispecies competition in variable environments. Theoretical Population Biology, 45, 227-276.
14 Chesson P (2000) Mechanisms of maintenance of species diversity. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 31, 343-366.
15 Chesson P (2013) Species competition and predation. In: Encyclopedia of Sustainability Science and Technology (ed. Meyers RA), pp. 223-256. Springer-Verlag, New York.
16 Chu CJ, Bartlett M, Wang YS, He FL, Weiner J, Chave J, Sack L (2016) Does climate directly influence NPP globally? Global Change Biology, 22, 12-24.
17 Chu CJ, Adler PB (2015) Large niche differences emerge at the recruitment stage to stabilize grassland coexistence. Ecological Monographs, 85, 373-392.
18 Chu CJ, Havstad KM, Kaplan N, Lauenroth WK, McClaran MP, Peters DP, Vermeire LT, Adler PB (2014) Life form influences survivorship patterns for 109 herbaceous perennials from six semi-arid ecosystems. Journal of Vegetation Science, 25, 947-954.
19 Connell JH (1971) On the role of natural enemies in preventing competitive exclusion in some marine animals and in rain forest trees. In: Dynamics of Populations (eds den Boer PJ, Gradwell G), pp. 298-312. Pudoc, Oosterbeek.
20 Elton C (1927) Animal Ecology. Sidgwick and Jackson, London.
21 Funk JL, Wolf AA (2016) Testing the trait-based community framework: do functional traits predict competitive outcomes? Ecology, 97, 2206-2211.
22 Gause GF (1934) The Struggle of Existence. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore.
23 Germain RM, Weir JT, Gilbert B (2016) Species coexistence: macroevolutionary relationships and the contingency of historical interactions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 283, 20160047.
24 Gilman SE, Urban MC, Tewksbury J, Gilchrist GW, Holt RD (2010) A framework for community interactions under climate change. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 25, 325-331.
25 Godoy O, Kraft NJB, Levine JM (2014) Phylogenetic relatedness and the determinants of competitive outcomes. Ecology Letters, 17, 836-844.
26 Godoy O, Levine JM (2014) Phenology effects on invasion success: insights from coupling field experiments to coexistence theory. Ecology, 95, 726-736.
27 Grinnell J (1917) The niche-relationships of the California thrasher. Auk, 34, 427-433.
28 Gross N, Liancourt P, Butters R, Duncan RP, Hulme PE (2015) Functional equivalence, competitive hierarchy and facilitation determine species coexistence in highly invaded grasslands. New Phytologist, 206, 175-186.
29 Hardin G (1960) The competitive exclusion principle. Science, 131, 1292-1297.
30 Harms K, Wright S, Calderon O, Hernandez A, Herre E (2000) Pervasive density-dependent recruitment enhances seedling diversity in a tropical forest. Nature, 404, 493-495.
31 HilleRisLambers J, Adler PB, Harpole WS, Levine JM, Mayfield MM (2012) Rethinking community assembly through the lens of coexistence theory. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 43, 227-248.
32 Hubbell SP (2001) The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
33 Hutchinson GE (1957) Concluding remarks. Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology, 22, 415-427.
34 Janzen DH (1970) Herbivores and the number of tree species in tropical forests. The American Naturalist, 104, 501-528.
35 Kleinhesselink AR, Adler PB (2015) Indirect effects of environmental change in resource competition models. The American Naturalist, 186, 766-776.
36 Kraft NJB, Godoy O, Levine JM (2015) Plant functional traits and the multidimensional nature of species coexistence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 112, 797-802.
37 Kunstler G, Lavergne S, Courbaud B, Thuiller W, Vieilledent G, Zimmermann NE, Kattge J, Coomes DA (2012) Competitive interactions between forest trees are driven by species’ trait hierarchy, not phylogenetic or functional similarity: implications for forest community assembly. Ecology Letters, 15, 831-840.
38 Lawton JH (1999) Are there general laws in ecology? Oikos, 84, 177-192.
39 Leibold MA (1995) The niche concept revisited: mechanistic models and community context. Ecology, 76, 1371-1382.
40 Letten AD, Ke PJ, Fukami T (2017) Linking modern coexistence theory and contemporary niche theory. Ecological Monographs, 87, 161-177.
41 Levine JM, HilleRisLambers J (2009) The importance of niches for the maintenance of species diversity. Nature, 461, 254-257.
42 Lewin R (1983) Santa Rosalia was a goat. Science, 221, 636-639.
43 Lotka AJ (1925) Elements of Physical Biology. Williams & Wilkins Company, Baltimore.
44 MacArthur RH (1958) Population ecology of some warblers of northeastern coniferous forests. Ecology, 39, 599-619.
45 MacArthur RH(1969) The theory of the niche. In: Population Biology and Evolution (ed. Lewontin RC), pp. 159-176. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse.
46 MacArthur RH(1972) Geographical Ecology: Patterns in the Distribution of Species. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
47 MacArthur RH, Levins R (1967) The limiting similarity, convergence, and divergence of coexisting species. The American Naturalist, 101, 377-385.
48 May RM, MacArthur RH (1972) Niche overlap as a function of environmental variability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA, 69, 1109-1113.
49 Mayfield MM, Levine JM (2010) Opposing effects of competitive exclusion on the phylogenetic structure of communities. Ecology Letters, 13, 1085-1093.
50 Narwani A, Alexandrou MA, Oakley TH, Carroll IT, Cardinale BJ (2013) Experimental evidence that evolutionary relatedness does not affect the ecological mechanisms of coexistence in freshwater green algae. Ecology Letters, 16, 1373-1381.
51 Newman EI (1973) Competition and diversity in herbaceous vegetation. Nature, 244, 310.
52 Niu HY, Wang ZF, Lian JY, Ye WH, Shen H (2011) New progress in community assembly: community phylogenetic structure combining evolution and ecology. Biodiversity Science, 19, 275-283. (in Chinese with English abstract)
[牛红玉, 王峥峰, 练琚愉, 叶万辉, 沈浩 (2011) 群落构建研究的新进展: 进化和生态相结合的群落谱系结构研究. 生物多样性, 19, 275-283.]
53 Niu KC, Liu YN, Shen ZH, He FL, Fang JY (2009) Community assembly: the relative importance of neutral theory and niche theory. Biodiversity Science, 17, 579-593. (in Chinese with English abstract)
[牛克昌, 刘怿宁, 沈泽昊, 何芳良, 方精云 (2009) 群落构建的中性理论和生态位理论. 生物多样性, 17, 579-593.]
54 Ostling A (2012) Do fitness-equalizing tradeoffs lead to neutral communities? Theoretical Ecology, 5, 181-194.
55 Siepielski AM, McPeek MA (2010) On the evidence for species coexistence: a critique of the coexistence program. Ecology, 91, 3153-3164.
56 Simberloff D, Boecklen W (1981) Santa Rosalia reconsidered: size ratios and competition. Evolution, 35, 1206-1228.
57 Soberón J (2007) Grinnellian and Eltonian niches and geographic distributions of species. Ecology Letters, 10, 1115-1123.
58 Strong DR, Szyska LA, Simberloff D (1979) Tests of community-wide character displacement against null hypotheses. Evolution, 33, 897-913.
59 Tilman D (1980) Resource: a graphical-mechanistic approach to competition and predation. The American Naturalist, 116, 362-393.
60 Tilman D (1982) Resource Competition and Community Structure. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
61 Turnbull LA, Rees M, Purves DW (2008) Why equalising trade-offs aren’t always neutral? Ecology Letters, 11, 1037-1046.
62 Vellend BM (2010) Conceptual synthesis in community ecology. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 85, 183-206.
63 Vellend M (2016) The Theory of Ecological Communities. Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford.
64 Volterra V (1926) Variations and fluctuations of the number of individuals in animal species living together. In: Animal Ecology (ed. Chapman RN) (Reprinted in 1931). McGraw Hill, New York.
65 Webb CO, Ackerly DD, McPeek MA, Donoghue MJ (2002) Phylogenies and community ecology. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 33, 475-505.
66 Zhao L, Zhang QG, Zhang DY (2016) Evolution alters ecological mechanisms of coexistence in experimental microcosms. Functional Ecology, 30, 1440-1446.
67 Zhou SR, Zhang DY (2006) Neutral theory in community ecology. Journal of Plant Ecology (Chinese Version), 30, 868-877. (in Chinese with English abstract)
[周淑荣, 张大勇 (2006) 群落生态学的中性理论. 植物生态学报, 30, 868-877.]
68 Zhu BR, Zhang DY (2011) A process-based theoretical framework for community ecology. Biodiversity Science, 19, 389-399. (in Chinese with English abstract)
[朱璧如, 张大勇 (2011) 基于过程的群落生态学理论框架. 生物多样性, 19, 389-339.]
[1] Jiang Huan, Zhang Hui, Long Wenxing, Fang Yanshan, Fu Mingqi, Zhu Kongxin. Interspecific associations and niche characteristics of communities invaded by Decalobanthus boisianus [J]. Biodiv Sci, 2019, 27(4): 388-399.
[2] WEN Chun,JIN Guang-Ze. Effects of functional diversity on productivity in a typical mixed broadleaved-Korean pine forest [J]. Chin J Plant Ecol, 2019, 43(2): 94-106.
[3] Fan Jingyu, Li Hanpeng, Yang Zhuo, Zhu Gengping. Selecting the best native individual model to predict potential distribution of Cabomba caroliniana in China [J]. Biodiv Sci, 2019, 27(2): 140-148.
[4] Chenchen Ding,Yiming Hu,Chunwang Li,Zhigang Jiang. Distribution and habitat suitability assessment of the gaur Bos gaurus in China [J]. Biodiv Sci, 2018, 26(9): 951-961.
[5] Zhongyi Zhou, Ran Liu, Shuna Shi, Yanjun Su, Wenkai Li, Qinghua Guo. Ecological niche modeling with LiDAR data: A case study of modeling the distribution of fisher in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, California [J]. Biodiv Sci, 2018, 26(8): 878-891.
[6] Song Naiping, Wang Xing, Chen Lin, Xue Yi, Chen Juan, Sui Jinming, Wang Lei, Yang Xinguo. Co-existence mechanisms of plant species within “soil islands” habitat of desert steppe [J]. Biodiv Sci, 2018, 26(7): 667-677.
[7] Kaida Xu,Kaner Lu,Zhanhui Lu,Qian Dai. Ecological niche analysis of dominant shrimp species in the Jiushan Islands Marine Nature Reserve [J]. Biodiv Sci, 2018, 26(6): 601-610.
[8] ZHENG Shan-Shan, CHEN Xu-Bo, XU Wei-Nan, LUO Zheng-Rong, XIA Geng-Shou. Effects of exotic-native species relationship on naturalization and invasion of exotic plant species [J]. Chin J Plant Ecol, 2018, 42(10): 990-999.
[9] Qianqian Zhang, Tong Zheng, Qian Yu, Lei Ge. Auxin and the Maintenance of Root Stem Cell Niches in Plants [J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2018, 53(1): 126-138.
[10] Qin ZHANG, Dong-Fang ZHANG, Ming-Li WU, Jie GUO, Cheng-Zhong SUN, Cai-Xiang XIE. Predicting the global areas for potential distribution of Gastrodia elata based on ecological niche models [J]. Chin J Plan Ecolo, 2017, 41(7): 770-778.
[11] Duo Ye, Ruirui Dong, Xiangcheng Mi, Wei Lu, Zhenjie Zheng, Mingjian Yu, Jian Ni, Jianhua Chen. Characteristics and effects of sprouting on species diversity in a subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest in Gutianshan, East China [J]. Biodiv Sci, 2017, 25(4): 393-400.
[12] LIU Xiang-Yu, HE Dong, TIAN Wen-Bin, SONG Yan-Jun, YIN Fang, XU Ming-Shan, CHENG Jun-Yang, YAN En-Rong. Patterns of species associations in woody plants in forest communities of Putuoshan Island, Zhejiang, China [J]. Chin J Plan Ecolo, 2017, 41(12): 1219-1227.
[13] Yan Sun, Zhongshi Zhou, Rui Wang, Heinz Müller-Schärer. Biological control opportunities of ragweed are predicted to decrease with climate change in East Asia [J]. Biodiv Sci, 2017, 25(12): 1285-1294.
[14] Junwei Ye, Yongge Yuan, Li Cai, Xiaojuan Wang. Research progress of phylogeographic studies of plant species in temperate coniferous and broadleaf mixed forests in Northeastern China [J]. Biodiv Sci, 2017, 25(12): 1339-1349.
[15] Jianming Wang, Wenjuan Wang, Jingwen Li, Yiming Feng, Bo Wu, Qi Lu. Biogeographic patterns and environmental interpretation of plant species richness in desert regions of Northwest China [J]. Biodiv Sci, 2017, 25(11): 1192-1201.
Viewed
Full text


Abstract

Cited

  Shared   
  Discussed   
[1] Zhi-Duan Chen, Tuo Yang, Li Lin, Li-Min Lu, Hong-Lei Li, Miao Sun, Bing Liu, Min Chen, Yan-Ting Niu, Jian-Fei Ye, Zhi-Yong Cao, Hong-Mei Liu, Xiao-Ming Wang, Wei Wang, Jing-Bo Zhang, Zhen Meng, Wei Cao, Jian-Hui Li, Sheng-Dan Wu, Hui-Ling Zhao, Zhong-Jian Liu, Zhi-Yuan Du, Qing-Feng Wang, Jing Guo, Xin-Xin Tan, Jun-Xia Su, Lin-Jing Zhang, Lei-Lei Yang, Yi-Ying Liao, Ming-He Li, Guo-Qiang Zhang, Shih-Wen Chung, Jian Zhang, Kun-Li Xiang, Rui-Qi Li, Douglas E. Soltis, Pamela S. Soltis, Shi-Liang Zhou, Jin-Hua Ran, Xiao-Quan Wang, Xiao-Hua Jin, You-Sheng Chen, Tian-Gang Gao, Jian-Hua Li, Shou-Zhou Zhang, An-Ming Lu, China Phylogeny Consortium. Tree of life for the genera of Chinese vascular plants[J]. J Syst Evol, 2016, 54(4): 277 -306 .
[2] Yihao Shi, Jiaying Huang, Tianshu Sun, Xuefei Wang, Chenqi Zhu, Yuxi Ai and Hongya Gu. The precise regulation of different COR genes by individual CBF transcription factors in Arabidopsis thaliana[J]. J Integr Plant Biol, 2017, 59(2): 118 -133 .
[3] XU Jing-Xian WANG Yu-Fei YANG Jian PU Guang-Rong ZHANG Cui-Fen. Advances in the Research of Tertiary Flora and Climate in Yunnan[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2000, 17(专辑): 84 -94 .
[4] He Ting-Nong, Liu Shang-Wu. New taxa of Swertia L. from China[J]. J Syst Evol, 1980, 18(1): 75 -85 .
[5] Jiliang Xu, Xiaohui Zhang, Zhengwang Zhang, Guangmei Zheng, Xiangfeng Ruan, Keyin Zhang. Home range and habitat use of male Reeves’s pheasant (Syrmaticus reevesii) in winter in Dongzhai National Nature Reserve, Henan Province[J]. Biodiv Sci, 2005, 13(5): 416 -423 .
[6] Xia Bing, Lan Tao, He Shan-an. Nonlinear Response Function of Growth of Pinus massomiana to Climate[J]. Chin J Plan Ecolo, 1996, 20(1): 51 -56 .
[7] Giovanna Serino, and Qi Xie. The Ever Expanding Role of Ubiquitin and SUMO in Plant Biology[J]. J Integr Plant Biol, 2013, 55(1): 5 -6 .
[8] Sun Zhen-xiao Xia Guang-min Chen Hui-min. Karyotype Analysis of Psathyrostachys juncea[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 1995, 12(01): 56 .
[9] Qiu Xi-zhao, Lin Peng. Characteristics of Horizontal Distribution of Fagaceae Species in Mid-Subtropical Evergreen Broadleaved Forests of Fujian Province[J]. Chin J Plan Ecolo, 1989, 13(1): 36 -41 .
[10] LI Jun, WANG Xue-Chun, SHAO Ming-An, ZHAO Yu-Juan, LI Xiao-Fang. Simulation of biomass and soil desiccation of Robinia pseudoacacia forestlands on semi-arid and semi-humid regions of China’s Loess Plateau[J]. Chin J Plan Ecolo, 2010, 34(3): 330 -339 .