Royal Society Publishing

A novel theory to explain species diversity in landscapes: positive frequency dependence and habitat suitability

Jane Molofsky, James D. Bever


Theories to explain the diversity of species have required that individual species occupy unique niches and/or vary in their response to environmental factors. Positive interactions within a species, although common in communities, have not been thought to maintain species diversity because in non–spatial models the more abundant species always outcompetes the rarer species. Here, we show, using a stochastic spatial model, that positive intraspecific interactions such as those caused by positive frequency dependence and/or priority effects, can maintain species diversity if interactions between individuals are primarily local and the habitat contains areas that cannot be colonized by any species, such as boulders or other physical obstructions. When intraspecific interactions are primarily neutral, species diversity will eventually erode to a single species. When the landscape is homogeneous (i.e. does not contain areas that cannot be colonized by any species), the presence of strong intraspecific interactions will not maintain diversity.

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