Quantifying and testing coexistence mechanisms arising from recruitment fluctuations

Peter Chesson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Temporal fluctuations in recruitment are involved in two distinct coexistence mechanisms, the storage effect and relative nonlinearity of competition, which may act simultaneously to stabilize species coexistence. It is shown that comparisons of recruitment variation between species at high versus low densities can test whether these mechanisms are responsible for stable coexistence. Moreover, under certain circumstances, these comparisons can measure the total coexistence stabilizing effect of the mechanism. These comparisons are clearest for the situation of an invader (a species perturbed to low density) in the presence of its competitors, termed residents. Then average invader-resident differences in the variances of log recruitment, potentially weighted by adult survival rates and species' sensitivities to competition, are proportional to the overall stabilizing effect of the storage effect and relative nonlinearity of competition. Less effective comparisons are available for species naturally at high and low densities or with substantial mean differences in average fitness. These developments lead also to a technique of partitioning the long-term low-density growth rate of a species into community average measures of stabilizing mechanisms, deviations from these measures, and other factors. The community average measure is argued as most appropriate for understanding the ability of a coexistence mechanism to stabilize coexistence. Individual species' deviations from the community average indicate the ways in a which a coexistence mechanism may affect average fitness differences between species either enhancing or diminishing the ability of a given set of species to coexist, depending on other factors. This approach provides a general new tool for analyzing species coexistence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-357
Number of pages13
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Coexistence
  • Recruitment variation
  • Relative nonlinearity
  • Storage effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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