Diversity by Default

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Science  22 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5401, pp. 495-496
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5401.495

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Why doesn't survival of the fittest seem to apply when many plants coexist? A report in this issue of Science ( Hubbell et al.) on tropical forests together with work from other habitats is converging on one explanation of this phenomenon--the recruitment limitation hypothesis. Simply put, this explanation states that stable heterogeneous populations of various types of plants coexist because--often by chance--the more successful competitors of the region do not happen to be locally present.