Coexistence of cycling and dispersing consumer species: Armstrong and McGehee in space.
Two competing consumer species may coexist using a single homogeneous resource when the more efficient consumer--the one having the lowest equilibrium resource density--has a more nonlinear functional response that generates consumer-resource cycles. We extend this model of nonequilibrium coexistence, as proposed by Armstrong and McGehee, by putting the interaction into a spatial context using two frameworks: a spatially explicit individual-based model and a spatially implicit metapopulation model. We find that Armstrong and McGehee's mechanism of coexistence can operate in a spatial context. However, individual-based simulations suggest that decreased dispersal restricts coexistence in most cases, whereas differential equation models of metapopulations suggest that a low rate of dispersal between subpopulations often increases the coexistence region. This difference arises in part because of two potentially opposing effects on coexistence due to the asynchrony in the temporal dynamics at different locations. Asynchrony implies that the less efficient species is more likely to be favored in some spatial locations at any given time, which broadens the conditions for coexistence. On the other hand, asynchrony and dispersal can also reduce the amplitude of local population cycles, which restricts coexistence. The relative influence of these two effects depends on details of the population dynamics and the representation of space. Our results also demonstrate that coexistence via the Armstrong-McGehee mechanism can occur even when there is little variation in the global densities of either the consumers or the resource, suggesting that empirical studies of the mechanisms should measure densities on several spatial scales.
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