At this point it is necessary to sound a loud note of caution. It has been assumed in this chapter until now that the environment is sufficiently constant for the outcome of competition to be determined by the competitive abilities of the competing species. In reality, though, such situations are far from universal. Environments are usually a patchwork of favorable and unfavorable habitats; patches are often only available temporarily; and patches often appear at unpredictable times and in unpredictable places. Even when interspecific competition occurs, it does not necessarily continue to completion. Systems do not necessarily reach equilibrium, and superior competitors do not necessarily have time to exclude their inferiors. Thus, an understanding of interspecific competition itself is not always enough. It is often also necessary to consider how interspecific competition is influenced by, and interacts with, an inconstant or unpredictable environment. To put it another way: Ks and as alone may determine an equilibrium, but in nature, equilibria are very often not achieved. Thus, the speed with which an equilibrium is approached becomes important. That is, as we have already noted in Section 8.4.1 in another context, not only Ks and as, but rs too play their part.
the outcome is probable rather than definite a note of caution: competition is influenced by heterogeneous, inconstant or unpredictable environments
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