Original Research

Is interspecific competition a major structuring force in animal communities?

P. A. J. Ryke
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 6, No 4 | a962 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v6i4.962 | © 1987 P. A. J. Ryke | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 March 1987 | Published: 17 March 1987

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P. A. J. Ryke,, South Africa

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Until recently the view that competition is the dominant ecological interaction was the prevailing one. Interspecific competition was widely regarded as a principal mechanism in determining community structure and organization and thus the distribution and abundance of species. The volume of literature that provides indirect evidence in favour of competition (observational approach) greatly exceeds the number of studies that provide direct evidence (experimental approach). In part for this reason the importance of competition in community ecology is questioned by some ecologists. The strongest evidence for competition is derived from controlled field experiments which manipulate the abundancies of putative competitor species. It is stressed that to be able to study competition in the field and to test its theories, interaction coefficients have to be measured. In community studies the question should be asked how important competition, relative to other processes, is. A mechanistic perspective could be a powerful heuristic tool for community ecologists.


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