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Nature. 2017 May 31;546(7656):56-64. doi: 10.1038/nature22898.

Beyond pairwise mechanisms of species coexistence in complex communities.

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Institute of Integrative Biology, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zürich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland.
Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
Department of Wildland Resources and the Ecology Center, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322, USA.
Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


The tremendous diversity of species in ecological communities has motivated a century of research into the mechanisms that maintain biodiversity. However, much of this work examines the coexistence of just pairs of competitors. This approach ignores those mechanisms of coexistence that emerge only in diverse competitive networks. Despite the potential for these mechanisms to create conditions under which the loss of one competitor triggers the loss of others, we lack the knowledge needed to judge their importance for coexistence in nature. Progress requires borrowing insight from the study of multitrophic interaction networks, and coupling empirical data to models of competition.

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