Fluctuating environments

The balance between competing species can be shifted repeatedly, in fact, and coexistence therefore fostered, simply as a result of environmental change. This was the argument used by Hutchinson (1961) to explain the 'paradox of the plankton' - the paradox being that numerous species of planktonic algae frequently coexist in simple environments with little apparent scope for niche differentiation. Hutchinson suggested that the environment, although simple, was continually changing, particularly on a seasonal basis. Thus, although the environment at any one time would tend to promote the exclusion of certain species, it would alter and perhaps even favor these same species before exclusion occurred. In other words, the equilibrium outcome of a competitive interaction may not be of paramount importance

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