Although having intrigued ecologists for more than half a century, the coexistence of species is still strongly debated in community ecology. The diversity paradox is based on the contrast between the huge number of species coexisting in nature versus the small number predicted by competition theories. Classical models suggest that species must be sufficiently different to coexist, but in nature species with very similar niches are found coexisting. Two theoretical approaches have tried to address this issue: while niche theory emphasizes the differences between species, neutral theory assumes interspecific ecological equivalence. Albeit distinct, both approaches assume ecological equivalence between individuals, in stark contrast with the numerous examples of intraspecific ecological variation in natural populations. In this project, we aim to understand the role of intraspecific variation in species coexistence through a framework that integrates: a) the relationship between the degree of intraspecific variation and the local species richness of natural communities and b) the magnitude of intra vs. interspecific competition. Additionally, we will investigate the relative importance of several ecological mechanisms (functional trade-offs, intra and interspecific competition, ecological opportunity and local productivity) in determining the degree of individual specialization in natural populations. Our model system will be composed of three ecologically similar species of anurans, whose trophic niche and degree of intraspecific ecological variation will be quantified along a gradient of communities differing in species richness. The magnitude of intra vs. interspecific competition will be measured through a field experiment. (AU)
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship:
ROQUE, FABIO O.;
RIBEIRO, DANILO B.;
SUGAI, LARISSA S. M.;
Upland habitat loss as a threat to Pantanal wetlands.
Web of Science Citations: 10.