Coexistence Mediated by Disturbance

Physical disturbance of habitat can also facilitate coexistence of individuals and species. Gap formation in rainforests through storms and fire is a major mechanism promoting coexistence and by which many species are maintained. Cyclones and smaller-scale storms on coral reefs may shift coral assemblages from domination by massive, slow-growing forms to faster-growing branching taxa. Crown-of-thorns seastar invasions can decimate reefs at small scales, leaving a mosaic of habitats in their wake. By preventing reefs reaching successional climaxes, disturbances such as these may enhance coexistence of the species that live there.

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