The non-random dispersal of plant propagules is thought to counter competitive exclusion and thus promote the survival of competitively inferior species. We investigated this process by modelling the outcome of interactions between species with competitive ability defined as a function of both life-history traits and the environment with both random and clustered dispersal strategies and in environmentally homogeneous and heterogeneous environments. Four main results emerged: (1) environmental heterogeneity was seen to promote co-existence in conjunction with associated trait variation for tolerance to the environmental variable and where this trait variation was effectively limited by ‘trade-off’ such that no single species had an overall competitive advantage, (2) consistent with theory, random dispersal appeared to enhance the likelihood of competitive exclusion, whereas clustering favoured co-existence, (3) the ecological outcome of interactions between dispersal and competitive relationships varied as a function of the trait determining the competitive advantage within a particular environment, and (4) promotion of co-existence by clustered dispersal was most marked when associated with environmental heterogeneity. It is argued that these results suggest that current ecological models of species interactions may need to be modified to incorporate a more realistic understanding of competitive ability if we are to better understand the factors effecting species co-existence.
- competitive exclusion
- environmental heterogeneity