Synthesis: Back to Santa Rosalia, or No Wonder There Are So Many Species

  • U. Sommer
  • B. Worm
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 161)


Modern competition research started with G.E. Hutchinson’s, Homage to Santa Rosalia, and his now-famous question “why are there so many species?” (Hutchinson 1959,1961). This confronted observed species richness with the competitive exclusion principle, a principle that had been derived from theory and from highly artificial experiments. It would always have been easy to point at the “artificial” character of the competitive exclusion principle. Indeed many researchers have refused to deal with Hutchinson’s question because they considered it a pseudo-problem, which arose from a contradiction between overly simplified theory and complicated reality. However, those who took Hutchinson’s challenge seriously have gained fundamental insights into how competition plays out in nature, how species coexist, and how communities function. In this final chapter we attempt to synthesize these insights as they have been presented in this book. We focus on six key topics:
  • Identification of major trade-off axes (Sect. 8.1)

  • Confirmation of the “intermediate disturbance hypothesis”, and detection of interactions among competition, resource supply, predation and disturbance in field experiments (Sect. 8.2)

  • The interplay of space colonization, dispersal and neighborhood competition in sessile communities (Sect. 8.3)

  • Potential for chaotic, self-generated heterogeneity in communities (Sect. 8.4)

  • Role of exclusive resources in competition among mobile animals (Sect. 8.5)

  • Coexistence by slow exclusion (Sect. 8.6)


Competitive Ability Resource Supply Temporal Heterogeneity Species Coexistence Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2002

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  • U. Sommer
  • B. Worm

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