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Contributed Talk 4: How the coexistence of specialist and generalist species is influenced by the size of environmental graining

Tuesday 28th October 2014 - 12:15 to 12:30
INI Seminar Room 1
Co-authors: Rosalind Allen (University of Edinburgh), Richard Blythe (University of Edinburgh)

Consider an ecosystem with limited space. For a specialist species to survive, there must be enough of its favoured habitat to support itself. If there is a lot of a particular habitat, then necessarily there must be less of another type of habitat.

A central question in ecology is why so many types of species can coexist in the same place. A popular explanation is niche partitioning, in which different species adopt different strategies and thus avoid competition. A possible difference in strategies is to either become a specialist, which uses one resource very well but cannot use anything else, or a generalist, which can use many resources, but less well. Specialist and generalist species coexist in many environments on earth, but why?

One possible factor is the size of similar patches that occur in the environment, which can also be thought of as the coarseness of environmental grain. Using an agent-based model, I investigate the effects of grain size on the coexistence of specialists and generalists and show why intermediately sized graining encourages coexistence and a higher overall species diversity.

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University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons