A spatial model of growth and competition strategies in coral communities
A discrete spatial simulation model is developed to investigate the type and intensity of biological and physical factors influencing the structure of coral communities. The model represents reproduction, growth, and interspecific competition by coral colonies in terms of "ownership" of space in a plot of reef habitat. Using data for several eastern Pacific coral species, the model reproduces observed changes in species composition and diversity during coral community development. Model results suggest that during early successional stages, or in areas that are frequently disturbed, larval colonization and rapid growth are more important than dominance achieved by extracoelenteric digestion or by growing over another coral in acquiring and maintaining possession of reef substrate. In mature communities that remain undisturbed, dominance is the best competitive strategy. Although the model was developed to study natural and man-induced changes in the community dynamics of coral reefs, it could be adapted to study other sessile organisms where spatial pattern is an important influence on the frequency and outcome of biological interactions. © 1977.
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