Theoretical Ecology

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 457–463 | Cite as

Diversity emerging: from competitive exclusion to neutral coexistence in ecosystems

  • Juan E. Keymer
  • Miguel A. Fuentes
  • Pablo A. MarquetEmail author
Original Paper


In this communication, we present a unifying framework to understand the emergence and maintenance of diversity in ecological systems. We do this by developing a deterministic population model including density-dependent limitation in resources and available space. Our model shows that competitive exclusion and neutral coexistence represent different regimes of the same adaptive dynamics suggesting that neutrality is the general result of an adaptive process in a finite habitat with limited energetic resources. Our model explains the emergence of biodiversity through mutation and its maintenance through neutrality. We show that this framework provides the theoretical foundations to understand the emergence and maintenance of diversity in microbial ecosystems.


Emergence Diversity Adaptive dynamics Competition Neutrality 



We thank Hans Metz, David Krakauer, Sander van Doorn, Elhanan Borenstein, Geoffrey West, and three anonymous reviewers for constructive criticisms, insights, and discussions. PAM acknowledges support from a John Simon Guggeheim Felowship and grants FONDAP-FONDECYT 1501-0001, ICM P05-02, Basal Financing Program CONICYT-PFB-023, the working group Unifying theories in ecology at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by NSF (grant no. DEB-0072909), the University of California, and the Santa Barbara campus, and SFI International Program. JEK acknowledges TU Delft for startup support.

Supplementary material

12080_2011_138_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (913 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan E. Keymer
    • 1
  • Miguel A. Fuentes
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Pablo A. Marquet
    • 3
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Bionanoscience, Kavli Institute of NanoscienceDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Statistical and Interdisciplinary Physics Group, Centro Atómico Bariloche and Instituto BalseiroBarilocheArgentina
  3. 3.Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology and Biodiversity (CASEB)Pontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile
  4. 4.Facultad de GobiernoUniversidad del DesarrolloSantiagoChile
  5. 5.Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias BiológicasPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile
  6. 6.Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB)SantiagoChile
  7. 7.Santa Fe InstituteSanta FeUSA

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