The emergence of diversity in plant communities

Simon Asher Levin, Helene C. Muller-Landau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The diversity of functional forms and strategies in plant communities is essential to the maintenance of the services that ecosystems provide humanity, and ultimately to the homeostasis of the biosphere. This diversity emerges from evolutionary forces operating at lower levels; these exploit the opportunities for specialization presented by exogenous and endogenous spatial and temporal heterogeneity. Two major theoretical approaches have been taken to understand how strategies arise and are maintained: optimization models, which consider the fitnesses of types in isolation, and game-theoretic methods, which take frequency dependence into account. The game-theoretic approach is more powerful, but also more challenging to apply. For some relatively simple problems in the study of biodiversity, we show how the game-theoretic formulation can be translated into an equivalent problem in optimization. More generally, however, new techniques will be needed to explore the dynamics of multiple coexisting types and strategies. (C) 2000 Academie des sciences/Editions scientifiques et medicales Elsevier SAS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-139
Number of pages11
JournalComptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences - Serie III
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Developmental Biology


  • Biodiversity
  • Dispersal
  • Evolutionary stable strategy
  • Heterogeneity
  • Life history
  • Seed size


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