Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 253-269

First online:

Habitat-dependent population regulation and community structure

  • Douglas W. MorrisAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland

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Density-dependence provides a causal link between processes acting at different levels of ecological organization. The linkage between density-dependent habitat use, population regulation and community organization is examined on the basis of qualitative and quantitative differences between habitats. These differences are expressed as characteristic shapes on isodars which are lines of equal fitness, and are plotted in density space as lines at every point of which the fitness of individuals in one habitat is equal to that of individuals in another. Isodars can be constructed for single species or modified to include the effects of interacting species. Isodars are easily analyzed by linear regression to differentiate between alternative modes of population regulation and to suggest patterns of community structure. Different isodars are causally related to different kinds of community structure, and suggest the existence of four new forms of community organization; equal, differential, switched and mixed preferences. A preliminary isodar analysis on a common rodent species demonstrates that population regulation depends upon habitat, and that mixed preferences probably organize the rodent community. Habitat-dependent population regulation has farreaching implications to studies of temporal and spatial scale, and to all ecological processes that are density-dependent.


Community structure density-dependence differential preference ghost of competition habitat selection isodar analysis mixed preference Peromyscus population regulation scale small mammals switched preference