Habitat structure mediates spatial segregation and therefore coexistence

Abstract

Understanding the mechanisms driving diversity in nature is an important and ongoing challenge in our changing world. To efficiently protect ecosystem diversity it is crucial to explain why and how species coexist. Over the last decades models explaining species coexistence have increased in complexity but usually don’t incorporate a detailed spatial context. However, spatial structure has been shown to affect species coexistence and habitat deterioration is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity. We therefore explore a spatially explicit two-species model and assess the effects of habitat structure on species coexistence using a wide diversity of fractal landscapes. Each species is specialized in a particular habitat type. We find that landscape structure has a major influence on the stability and constitution of a two species system and may be sufficient to explain the coexistence of two species. Well connected and highly structured habitat configurations allow spatial segregation of both species and this decreases local interspecific competition; in our model this is the most important process stabilizing coexistence.

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded by FWO project G.0610.11 to DB and JB. DB is supported by the FWO Research Network EVENET and the BelSpo IAP project Speedy. AK is supported by a grant from the German science foundation (HO 2051/3-1). This is publication ISEM-2014-032 of the Institute des Sciences de l’Evolution.

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Correspondence to Jeroen Boeye.

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Boeye, J., Kubisch, A. & Bonte, D. Habitat structure mediates spatial segregation and therefore coexistence. Landscape Ecol 29, 593–604 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-014-0010-6

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Keywords

  • Coexistence
  • Competition
  • Habitat structure
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Habitat loss
  • Spatial segregation
  • Storage effect
  • Dispersal