Spatial coexistence of phytoplankton species in ecological timescale

The species diversity of phytoplankton is usually very high in wild aquatic systems, as seen in the paradox of plankton. Coexistence of many competitive phytoplankton species is extremely common in nature. However, experiments and mathematical theories show that interspecific competition often leads to the extinction of most inferior species. Here, we present a lattice version of a multi-species Lotka–Volterra competition model to demonstrate the importance of local interaction. Its mathematical equilibrium is the exclusion of all but one superior species. However, temporal coexistence of many competitive species is possible in an ecological time scale if interactions are local instead of global. This implies that the time scale is elongated many orders when interactions are local. Extremely high species diversity of phytoplankton in aquatic systems may be maintained by spatial coexistence in an ecological time scale.

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