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Why do so many species live in tropical forests and coral reefs?
Date:10/30/2007

work shows that "a theory in which all interspecific interactions are turned off leads to analytical results that are in good agreement with RSA data from tropical forests and coral reefs," the Nature article says. This agreement is so despite the obvious differences between the two types of communities -- coral reefs being composed of "many small, isolated communities" and tropical rainforests being "larger and more connected."

Volkov et al. conclude that "one can make significant theoretical progress in ecology by assuming that the effective interactions are weak in the stationary states in species-rich communities such as tropical forests and coral reefs." Maritan says that ecosystems may have evolved to a stationary state in which the coexisting species are substantially noninteracting because that is the most probable outcome. The next step, Volkov says, is "the development of a framework for bridging neutral and niche theories through the realistic accounting of the most important interactions among species and with the environment; for example, ways in which tree species might compete for the same resources or harbor insect pests that affect their competitiveness with rival tree species."

"The six-year saga of neutral theory is an intriguing example of how a scientific hypothesis can fertilize stimulating new research while evolving over time in response to scientific critiques," Banavar says.


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Contact: Barbara K. Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State  
Source:Eurekalert

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