Introduction

The 'competitive exclusion principle' (CEP), usually attributed to Georgii Frantsevitch Gause (1934), states: ''Two species with identical niches (and compete for a single resource) cannot coexist together indefinitely.'' This statement, in its simplicity, represents one of the most influential, compelling, and controversial concepts in ecology. Indeed, it pervades almost all theoretical and empirical work on questions of species coexistence and diversity. Further, it is a conceptually centralizing paradox in ecology: if similar competing species cannot coexist, then how do we explain the great patterns of diversity that we observe in nature? If species living together cannot occupy the same niche indefinitely, then how do competitors coexist? Community ecology strives to reconcile this paradox and explain the mechanisms of species coexistence: niche differences among species has been the primary explanation for the maintenance of species coexistence.

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