ECOLOGY/EVOLUTION

Maintaining One's Niche

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Science  27 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5688, pp. 1215
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5688.1215b

The concept of limiting similarity—literally, the limits to how similar two species can be if they are to coexist in a habitat—is an important element in the theory of assembly rules governing composition and diversity within ecological communities. Nevertheless, rigorous empirical evidence for limiting similarity has been hard to obtain. Stubbs and Wilson, in a study of a sand dune plant community in New Zealand, examined whether plants with similar functional characteristics (such as height, leaf shape, root morphology, nitrogen and phosphorus content of leaves) coexisted less often than would be expected if their distribution were random. Plants were sampled at different spatial scales up to 50 m2. Many of the functional characters showed less-than-expected mean dissimilarity at the 0.5 m2 scale, providing support for the rule of limiting similarity in this community. The effects were seen particularly clearly in functional characters relating to nutrient uptake and the control of leaf water. — AMS

J. Ecol. 92, 557 (2004).

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