Ecosystems with Mutually Exclusive Interactions Self-Organize to a State of High Diversity

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Ecosystems with Mutually Exclusive Interactions Self-Organize to a State of High Diversity

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Abstract

Ecological systems comprise an astonishing diversity of species that cooperate or compete with each other forming complex mutual dependencies. The minimum requirements to maintain a large species diversity on long time scales are in general unknown. Using lichen communities as an example, we propose a model for the evolution of mutually excluding organisms that compete for space. We suggest that chainlike or cyclic invasions open for creation of spatially separated subpopulations that subsequently can lead to increased diversity. In contrast to its nonspatial counterpart, our model predicts robust coexistence of a large number of species. It is demonstrated that large species diversity can be obtained on evolutionary time scales, provided that interactions between species have spatial constraints. In particular, a phase transition to a sustainable state of high diversity is identified.
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Authors

Joachim Mathiesen, Namiko Mitarai, Kim Sneppen, Ala Trusina