The transition between the niche and neutral regimes in ecology
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- Charles K. Fisher
- Pankaj Mehta
- The transition between the niche and neutral regimes in ecology
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
An ongoing debate in ecology concerns the impacts of ecological drift and selection on community assembly. Here, we show that there is a transition in diverse ecological communities between a selection-dominated regime (the niche phase) and a drift-dominated regime (the neutral phase). Simulations and analytic arguments show that the niche phase is favored in communities with large population sizes and relatively constant environments, whereas the neutral phase is favored in communities with small population sizes and fluctuating environments. Our results demonstrate how apparently neutral populations may arise even in communities inhabited by species with varying traits.
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