, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 272–281 | Cite as

On classifying interactions between populations

  • P. A. Abrams
Original Papers


The classification of interspecific interactions can have an important impact on ecologists' world views. Previous classifications have often been incomplete, have suffered from ambiguously defined categories, and/or have wrongly equated categories of population level effects with particular mechanisms of interaction. I use several simple mathematical models to argue that effects on short-term population growth rate, long term population size, and short term relative fitness of interactants may differ qualitatively. Equating all (--) effects with competition and all (+-) effects with predation may have caused ecologists to ignore a variety of potentially important interaction mechanisms. Failure to define the type of effect used in classifying interactions has led to confusion about the nature of interactions; several controversies regarding competition have apparently been caused or exaccerbated by problems with definition or clasification. In applying classification schemes, ecologists should realize that the classification of an interaction between two populations may change with the sizes of those populations or of other populations with which they interact.

Key words

Competition Interaction Mutualism Predation 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. A. Abrams
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Behavioral BiologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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