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Coexistence theory and the frequency-dependence of priority effects

Nature Ecology & Evolutionvolume 2pages16911695 (2018) | Download Citation


Priority effects are commonly used to describe a broad suite of phenomena capturing the influence of species arrival order on the diversity, composition and function of ecological communities. Several studies have suggested reframing priority effects around the stabilizing and equalizing concepts of coexistence theory. We show that the only compatible priority effects are those characterized by positive frequency-dependence, irrespective of whether they emerge in equilibrium or non-equilibrium systems.

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All simulated data was generated by R language. All code used for this study is available at and upon request from the corresponding author.

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We thank T. Fukami, T. Grainger and D. Stouffer for helpful comments. P.-J.K. was supported by Stanford University and the Studying Abroad Scholarship from the Ministry of Education, Taiwan. A.D.L. was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Center for Computational, Evolutionary, and Human Genomics of Stanford University.

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Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: Po-Ju Ke, Andrew D. Letten.


  1. Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

    • Po-Ju Ke
    •  & Andrew D. Letten
  2. Centre for Integrative Ecology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

    • Andrew D. Letten
  3. Institute of Integrative Biology, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

    • Andrew D. Letten


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P.-J.K. and A.D.L. conceived the study, performed the analysis and wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Po-Ju Ke or Andrew D. Letten.

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