The Effect of Intra- and Interspecific Competition on Coexistence in Multispecies Communities

Am Nat. 2016 Jul;188(1):E1-E12. doi: 10.1086/686901. Epub 2016 May 23.


For two competing species, intraspecific competition must exceed interspecific competition for coexistence. To generalize this well-known criterion to multiple competing species, one must take into account both the distribution of interaction strengths and community structure. Here we derive a multispecies generalization of the two-species rule in the context of symmetric Lotka-Volterra competition and obtain explicit stability conditions for random competitive communities. We then explore the influence of community structure on coexistence. Results show that both the most and least stabilized cases have striking global structures, with a nested pattern emerging in both cases. The distribution of intraspecific coefficients leading to the most and least stabilized communities also follows a predictable pattern that can be justified analytically. In addition, we show that the size of the parameter space allowing for feasible communities always increases with the strength of intraspecific effects in a characteristic way that is independent of the interspecific interaction structure. We conclude by discussing possible extensions of our results to nonsymmetric competition.

Keywords: Lotka-Volterra model; coexistence; community structure; interspecific competition; intraspecific competition.

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Social Behavior