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Am Nat. 2002 May;159(5):498-508. doi: 10.1086/339460.

Competition and coexistence in regional habitats.

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  • 1First Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanic Administration, Xianxialing Road, Hi-tech Industrial Park, Qingdao 266061, Shandong, People's Republic of China.


Habitat heterogeneity plays a key role in the dynamics and structures of communities. In this article, a two-species metapopulation model that includes local competitive dynamics is analyzed to study the population dynamics of two competing species in spatially structured habitats. When local stochastic extinction can be ignored, there are, as in Lotka-Volterra equations, four outcomes of interspecific competition in this model. The outcomes of competition depend on the competitive intensity between the competing pairs. An inferior competitor and a superior competitor, or two strongly competing species, can never stably coexist, whereas two weak competitors (even if they are very similar species) may coexist over the long term in such environments. Local stochastic extinction may greatly affect the outcomes of interspecific competition. Two competing species can or cannot stably coexist depending not only on the competitive intensity between the competing pairs but also on their precompetitive distributions. Two weak competitors that have similar precompetitive distributions can always regionally coexist. Two strongly competing species that competitively exclude each other in more stable habitats may be able to stably coexist in highly heterogenous environments if they have similar precompetitive distributions. There is also a chance for an inferior competitor to coexist regionally or even to exclude a superior competitor when the superior competitor has a narrow precompetitive distribution and the inferior competitor has a wide precompetitive distribution.

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