Can we make quantitative predictions for relative yield with incomplete knowledge of model parameters?


A main limitation in community ecology for making quantitative predictions on species abundances is often an incomplete knowledge of the parameters of the population dynamics models. The simplest linear Lotka-Volterra competition equations (LLVCE) for S species require S2 parameters to solve for equilibrium abundances. The same order of experiments are required to estimate these parameters, namely the carrying capacities (from monoculture experiments) and the competition coefficients (from biculture or pairwise experiments in addition to monoculture ones). For communities with large species richness S it is practically impossible to perform all these experiments. Therefore, with an incomplete knowledge of model parameters it seems more reasonable to attempt to predict aggregated or mean quantities, defined for the whole community of competing species, rather than making more detailed predictions, like the abundance of each species. Here we test a recently derived analytical approximation for predicting the Relative Yield Total (RYT) and the Mean Relative Yield (MRY) as functions of the mean value of the interspecific competition matrix a and the species richness S. These formulae with only a fraction of the model parameters, are able to predict accurately empirical measurements covering a wide variety of taxa such as algae, vascular plants, protozoa. We discuss the dependence of these global community quantities on the species richness and the intensity of competition and possible applications are pointed out.


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Work supported in part by ANII-Uruguay (SNI and project ERANET-LACR&I2016-1005422).

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Correspondence to H. Fort.

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Fort, H. Can we make quantitative predictions for relative yield with incomplete knowledge of model parameters?. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 19, 199–202 (2018).

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Key words

  • Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiments
  • Quantitative Lotka-Volterra competition theory