June 30 (Thu) at 10:00 - 11:30, 2022 (JST)
Ryosuke Iritani

The question of how species coexist in diverse natural communities has challenged ecologists for generations. Theoretical models of species coexistence have been developed, but primarily as proof of concept for specific coexistence theories. These theories and associated models focus on coexistence between species pairs and ignore the great complexity of interactions found in most natural systems. Though useful for advancing ecological theory, these models are often of limited use for understanding and predicting diversity in real natural communities. In this talk, I explore the three main assumptions made by coexistence models developed under the framework of Modern Coexistence Theory (MCT): that only direct competition is important, that demographic variation is noise, not valuable biological information, and that only the average environment matters. Using Bayesian statistical approaches with population growth models applied to field data from the annual plant communities of the York gum woodlands of SW Western Australia, I illustrate the issues with these assumptions in predicting coexistence in diverse systems. I show how these Bayesian approaches to MCT can improve on frequentist approaches and discuss the potential value of interaction networks for studying coexistence dynamics in diverse natural systems.

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