Wednesday 6 February 2019

Competing species can both survive, study finds

January 21, 2019 by Jim Barlow, University of Oregon
When species compete for limited resources, structures in their environment can be the difference between coexistence or one eliminating another. Relationships between species also are important, according to new research by University of Oregon scientists.
Scientists have suspected a deep relationship between biodiversity and physical structure of the environment, but nailing it down has been elusive.
The UO's Tristan Ursell and Nick Lowery have revealed part of that relationship by crunching mathematically rich formulas in thousands of supercomputer simulations across multiple scenarios. In the research, they focused on the influences of physical structures, such as packed particles in soil and epithelial cells in the mammalian gut, on the survival of species living in those environments.
Their findings are in a paper focusing on the dynamics and stability of ecological communities in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The accomplishment puts on firm footing physical conditions that contribute to the biodiversity seen in nature. It also shows a possible route around competitive exclusion, a concept that argues that two species battling for the same resources cannot stably coexist in an ecosystem unless they adopt different characteristics or strategies to reduce competition. The term was coined in 1932 by Soviet biologist Georgii Gause.
"This research addresses a longstanding question," Ursell said. "If on the one hand competitive exclusion pushes a system to have a single dominant species, why do some environments have thousands of species coexisting in a limited environment? We offer a possible explanation that says it is the structure of the environment that allows that to be true."

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