Can environmental fluctuation prevent competitive exclusion in sympatric flycatchers?

Glenn Peter Sætre, Eric Post, Miroslav Král

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52 Scopus citations


Ecology has been characterized by a central controversy for decades: namely whether the distribution and abundance of organisms are determined by species interactions, such as competitive exclusion, or by environmental conditions. In part, this is because competitive exclusion has not been convincingly demonstrated in open, natural systems. In addition, traditional theoretical models cannot predict the outcome of competitive interactions in the presence of environmental variability. In this paper we document the limiting influence of strong interspecific competition on population dynamics and nestling mortality in a mixed population of pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) and collared flycatchers (F. albicollis) in a narrow zone of sympatry. Whereas the former species was limited mainly by interspecific competition, the latter species was limited by the concerted influences of intraspecific competition and climate. The analysis suggests a march towards competitive exclusion of the pied flycatcher during warm periods. However, competitive exclusion is apparently prohibited on a local scale because intraspecific competition among individual collared flycatchers intensifies when they are forced to cope with severe environmental conditions, promoting the temporary and local presence of pied flycatchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1247-1251
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1425
StatePublished - Jun 22 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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