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Competition for time: evidence for an overlooked, diversity-maintaining competitive mechanism
  • Jacob Levine,
  • Stephen Pacala,
  • Jonathan Levine
Jacob Levine
Princeton University

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Stephen Pacala
Princeton University
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Jonathan Levine
Princeton Environmental Institute
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Understanding how diversity is maintained in plant communities requires that we first understand the mechanisms of competition for limiting resources. In ecology, there is an underappreciated, but fundamental distinction between systems in which the depletion of limiting resources reduces the growth rates of competitors versus systems in which resource depletion reduces the time available for competitors to grow, a mechanism we call “competition for time.” Importantly, modern community ecology, and our framing of the coexistence problem are built on the implicit assumption that competition reduces the growth rate. However, recent theoretical work suggests competition for time may be the predominant competitive mechanism in a broad array of natural communities, a significant advance given coexistence follows naturally when species compete for time. In this study we first introduce competition for time conceptually using a simple model of interacting species. Then, we perform an experiment in a Mediterranean annual grassland to determine whether competition for time is an important competitive mechanism in a field system. Indeed, we find that species respond to increased competition through reductions in their lifespan rather than their rate of growth. In total, our study suggests competition for time may be overlooked as a mechanism of biodiversity maintenance.
Submitted to Ecology Letters
15 Feb 2024Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
28 Feb 2024Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
01 Mar 2024Submission Checks Completed
01 Mar 2024Assigned to Editor
01 Mar 2024Reviewer(s) Assigned
13 Mar 2024Editorial Decision: Accept