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1.The Neutral Theory of Biodiversity explored the structure of a community of ecologically equivalent species. Such species are expected to display community drift dynamics analogous to neutral alleles undergoing genetic drift. While entire communities of species are not ecologically equivalent, recent field experiments have documented the existence of guilds of such neutral species embedded in real food webs. 2. What demographic outcomes of the interactions within and between species in these guilds are expected to produce ecological drift versus coexistence remains unclear. To address this issue, and guide empirical testing, we consider models of a guild of ecologically equivalent competitors feeding on a single resource to explore when community drift should manifest. 3. We show that community drift dynamics only emerge when the density-dependent effects of each species on itself are identical to its density-dependent effects on every other guild member. In contrast, if each guild member directly limits itself more than it limits the abundance of other guild members, all species in the guild are coexisting, even though they all are ecologically equivalent with respect to their interactions with species outside the guild (i.e., resources, predators, mutualists). Hence, considering only interspecific ecological differences generating density-dependence, and not fully accounting for the preponderance of mechanisms causing intraspecific density-dependence, will provide an incomplete picture for segregating between neutrality and coexistence. We also identify critical experiments necessary to disentangle guilds of ecologically equivalent species from those experiencing ecological drift, as well as provide an overview of ways of incorporating a mechanistic basis into studies of species coexistence and neutrality. 4. Identifying these characteristics, and the mechanistic basis underlying community structure, is not merely an exercise in clarifying the semantics of coexistence and neutral theories, but rather reflects key differences that must exist among community members in order to determine how and why communities are structured. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: The Journal of animal ecology
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Includes mechanisms or programs which control the numbers of individuals in a population of humans or animals.
Ongoing scrutiny of a population (general population, study population, target population, etc.), generally using methods distinguished by their practicability, uniformity, and frequently their rapidity, rather than by complete accuracy.
A ceramidase subtype that is active at neutral pH. It is found at high levels within the SMALL INTESTINE and in the BRAIN.
Amino acid transporter systems capable of transporting neutral amino acids (AMINO ACIDS, NEUTRAL).
Differences in measurable biological values, characteristics, or traits, among individuals of a population or between population groups.
Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. The substance is ingested by an organism ...