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Sci Rep. 2015 Oct 20;5:15376. doi: 10.1038/srep15376.

Microhabitat locality allows multi-species coexistence in terrestrial plant communities.

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Graduate School of Science and Technology, Shizuoka University, Hamamatsu 432-8561, Japan.
Mathematics Division, Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics, University of Philippines Los Baños, College, Laguna 4031, Philippines.
Department of Mathematical and Systems Engineering, Shizuoka University, Hamamatsu 432-8561, Japan.
Department of Preschool Education, Nagoya College, Toyoake, Aichi 470-1193, Japan.
Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University, Otsu, 520-2113, Japan.
Center for Environmental Biology and Ecosystem Studies, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, 305-8506, Japan.
Faculty of Agriculture, Yamagata University, Tsuruoka, Yamagata 997-8555, Japan.
Marine Biosystems Research Center, Chiba University, Kamogawa, Chiba 299-5502, Japan.
Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA.


Most terrestrial plant communities exhibit relatively high species diversity and many competitive species are ubiquitous. Many theoretical studies have been carried out to investigate the coexistence of a few competitive species and in most cases they suggest competitive exclusion. Theoretical studies have revealed that coexistence of even three or four species can be extremely difficult. It has been suggested that the coexistence of many species has been achieved by the fine differences in suitable microhabitats for each species, attributing to niche-separation. So far there is no explicit demonstration of such a coexistence in mathematical and simulation studies. Here we built a simple lattice Lotka-Volterra model of competition by incorporating the minute differences of suitable microhabitats for many species. By applying the site variations in species-specific settlement rates of a seedling, we achieved the coexistence of more than 10 species. This result indicates that competition between many species is avoided by the spatial variations in species-specific microhabitats. Our results demonstrate that coexistence of many species becomes possible by the minute differences in microhabitats. This mechanism should be applicable to many vegetation types, such as temperate forests and grasslands.

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