Effects of Competition, Predation, and Dispersal on Species Richness at Local and Regional Scales

Am Nat. 2001 Dec;158(6):624-37. doi: 10.1086/323589.


This study explores the consequences of predator-mediated coexistence among competitors for patterns of incidence and diversity at local and regional scales. We develop a model that draws on elements of metapopulation models of competitors and food chains by allowing competitors to coexist locally in the presence of predators but not in their absence. The model predicts that predators promote regional coexistence by greatly expanding the range of conditions under which two competitors persist at equilibrium. Predators could have positive or negative effects on mean local diversity within the region depending on their dispersal rates, those of the prey, and their effects on prey extinction rates. The presence of predators increased the abundance of inferior competitors, thereby expanding the conditions for positive relationships between local and regional diversity. The model also predicted positive correlations between local diversity of predators and prey. These predictions were supported by patterns of phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fish species richness among lakes. The model may help to resolve the apparent contrast between linear patterns of local and regional richness and experimental evidence for strong invasion resistance and rapid dispersal in zooplankton.