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A mean field model for competition: from neutral ecology to the Red Queen



Individual species are distributed inhomogeneously over space and time, yet, within large communities of species, aggregated patterns of biodiversity seem to display nearly universal behaviour. Neutral models assume that an individual's demographic prospects are independent of its species identity. They have successfully predicted certain static, time-independent patterns. But they have generally failed to predict temporal patterns, such as species ages or population dynamics. We construct a new, multispecies framework incorporating competitive differences between species, and assess the impact of this competition on static and dynamic patterns of biodiversity. We solve this model exactly for the special case of a Red Queen hypothesis, where fitter species are continually arising. The model predicts more realistic species ages than neutral models, without greatly changing predictions for static species abundance distributions. Our modelling approach may allow users to incorporate a broad range of ecological mechanisms.

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