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Theor Popul Biol. 2002 Nov;62(3):281-95.

The impact of consumer-resource cycles on the coexistence of competing consumers.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3G5.


This article seeks to determine the extent to which endogenous consumer-resource cycles can contribute to the coexistence of competing consumer species. It begins with a numerical analysis of a simple model proposed by Armstrong and McGehee. This model has a single resource and two consumers, one with a linear functional response and one with a saturating response. Coexistence of the two consumer species can occur when the species with a saturating response generates population cycles of the resource, and also has a lower resource requirement for zero population growth. Coexistence can be achieved over a wide range of relative efficiencies of the two consumers provided that the functional response of the saturating consumer reaches its half-saturation value when the resource population is a small fraction of its carrying capacity. In this case, the range of efficiencies allowing coexistence is comparable to that when two competitors have stable dynamics and a high degree of resource partitioning. A variety of modifications of this basic model are analyzed to investigate the consequences for coexistence of different resource growth equations, different functional and numerical response shapes, and other factors. Large differences in functional response shape appear to be the most important factor in producing robust coexistence via resource cycles. If the unstable species has a concave numerical response, this greatly expands the conditions allowing coexistence. If the stable consumer species has a convex (accelerating) functional and/or numerical response, the range of conditions allowing coexistence is also expanded. We argue that large between-species differences in functional response form can often be produced by between-consumer differences in the adaptive adjustments of foraging effort to food density. Consumer-resource cycles can also expand the conditions allowing coexistence when there is resource partitioning, but do so primarily when resource partitioning is relatively slight; this makes the ease of coexistence relatively independent of consumer similarity.

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