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A Case for the "Competitive Exclusion-Tolerance Rule" as a General Cause of Species Turnover along Environmental Gradients.

Authors
  • Martin, Paul R
  • Ghalambor, Cameron K
Type
Published Article
Journal
The American Naturalist
Publisher
The University of Chicago Press
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2023
Volume
202
Issue
1
Pages
1–17
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1086/724683
PMID: 37384767
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

AbstractClosely related, ecologically similar species often segregate their distributions along environmental gradients of time, space, and resources, but previous research suggests diverse underlying causes. Here, we review reciprocal removal studies in nature that experimentally test the role of interactions among species in determining their turnover along environmental gradients. We find consistent evidence for asymmetric exclusion coupled with differences in environmental tolerance causing the segregation of species pairs, where a dominant species excludes a subordinate from benign regions of the gradient but is unable to tolerate challenging regions to which the subordinate species is adapted. Subordinate species were consistently smaller and performed better in regions of the gradient typically occupied by the dominant species compared with their native distribution. These results extend previous ideas contrasting competitive ability with adaptation to abiotic stress to include a broader diversity of species interactions (intraguild predation, reproductive interference) and environmental gradients, including gradients of biotic challenge. Collectively, these findings suggest that adaptation to environmental challenge compromises performance in antagonistic interactions with ecologically similar species. The consistency of this pattern across diverse organisms, environments, and biomes suggests generalizable processes structuring the segregation of ecologically similar species along disparate environmental gradients, a phenomenon that we propose should be named the competitive exclusion-tolerance rule.

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