Integrating eco-evolutionary dynamics and modern coexistence theory

Masato Yamamichi, Theo Gibbs, Jonathan M. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Community ecology typically assumes that competitive exclusion and species coexistence are unaffected by evolution on the time scale of ecological dynamics. However, recent studies suggest that rapid evolution operating concurrently with competition may enable species coexistence. Such findings necessitate general theory that incorporates the coexistence contributions of eco-evolutionary processes in parallel with purely ecological mechanisms and provides metrics for quantifying the role of evolution in shaping competitive outcomes in both modelling and empirical contexts. To foster the development of such theory, here we extend the interpretation of the two principal metrics of modern coexistence theory—niche and competitive ability differences—to systems where competitors evolve. We define eco-evolutionary versions of these metrics by considering how invading and resident species adapt to conspecific and heterospecific competitors. We show that the eco-evolutionary niche and competitive ability differences are sums of ecological and evolutionary processes, and that they accurately predict the potential for stable coexistence in previous theoretical studies of eco-evolutionary dynamics. Finally, we show how this theory frames recent empirical assessments of rapid evolution effects on species coexistence, and how empirical work and theory on species coexistence and eco-evolutionary dynamics can be further integrated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2091-2106
Number of pages16
JournalEcology letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Chesson's coexistence theory
  • Lotka–Volterra competition model
  • competitive ability difference
  • density-dependent selection
  • eco-evolutionary dynamics
  • eco-evolutionary feedbacks
  • neighbour-dependent selection
  • population cycles
  • rapid evolution
  • stabilising niche difference


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