An empirical model of species coexistence in a spatially structured environment.

Yu, D.W., Wilson, H.B. and Pierce, N.E. (2001) An empirical model of species coexistence in a spatially structured environment. Ecology, 82 (6). pp. 1761-1771. ISSN 0012-9658

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Abstract

Ecological theory has long supported the idea that species coexistence in a homogeneous habitat is promoted by spatial structure, but empirical evidence for this hypothesis has lagged behind theory. Here we describe a Neotropical ant-plant symbiosis that is ideally suited for testing spatial models of coexistence. Two genera of ants, Allomerus cf. demerarae and three species of Azteca are specialized to live on a single species of ant-plant, Cordia nodosa, in a Western Amazonian tropical rain forest. Empirically, using census data from widely separated localities, we show that the relative colonization abilities of the two ant genera are a function of plant density. A parameterized model shows that this pattern alone is sufficiently robust to explain coexistence in the system. Census and experimental data suggest that Azteca queens are better long-distance flyers, but that Allomerus colonies are more fecund. Thus, Azteca can dominate in areas where host-plant densities are low (and parent colony-sapling distances are long), and Allomerus can dominate in areas where host-plant densities are high. Existing spatial heterogeneity in host-plant densities therefore can allow regional coexistence, and intersite dispersal can produce local mixing. In conclusion, a dispersal-fecundity trade-off appears to allow the two genera to treat spatial heterogeneity in patch density as a niche axis. This study further suggests that a spatially structured approach is essential in understanding the persistence of some mutualisms in the presence of parasites.

Item Type: Article
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Biological Sciences
Related URLs:
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2010 13:37
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2020 21:11
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/1077
DOI: 10.1890/0012-9658(2001)082[1761:AEMOSC]2.0.CO;2

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