2001, Dr. Paul A. Keddy

Competition is everywhere in biological systems.  It crosses multiple levels of organization, including cells within bodies, species within ecosystems, and cultures within human history.  Although competition is a ubiquitous force, like gravity, its importance changes with location.  One of the challenges of ecology is to determine how the strength of competition varies among habitats and species. Competition explores this problem, and its potential solutions, with examples from a range of natural situations.  Although the focus of this book is on interactions among populations and species, examples are selected across the range of biological circumstances, from sperm cells within females to military planning in human history.  The book includes a wide array of natural examples, from fungi to dung beetles to trees to salamanders.

Chapter 1 includes a review of definitions of competition, some history, the many different kinds of competition found in nature, and examples of each.

Chapter 9 includes a wide-ranging review of models used to study competition.  It includes many models that are frequently overlooked.  It also discusses the different types of models, and their purposes.

Questions for class discussion

  • What is the difference between exploitation and interference competition?
  • How many procedures can you use to measure competition?
  • What are the costs and benefits of each procedure?
  • What determines the intensity of competiton among pairs of species?
  • What determines the degree of asymmetry of competition among pairs of species?
  • Are nitrogen and phosphorus the key resources for measuring or predicting effects of competiton?
  • How do disturbance and stress affect competitive interactions?
  • What traits tend to be associated with strong competitive ability?
  • Which groups of organisms are over-represented in studies of competition? How do you think this has affected our understanding of real communities and ecosystems?
  • What are some priority questions for the next generation of scientists?