A meta-analysis of competition in field experiments

J. Gurevitch, L. L. Morrow, A. Wallace, J. S. Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

714 Scopus citations


A meta-analysis was conducted on field-competition experiments published in six journals over a 10-yr period, analyzing the effects of competition on the biomass of organisms belonging to 93 species in a wide variety of habitats. Competition had a large effect overall, with a great deal of heterogeneity in that effect among organisms. There were large differences among trophic levels in competitive effects, but the relative magnitude of competition at different trophic levels was contrary to the predictions of ecological theory. Primary producers and carnivores displayed small to medium effects. In these two groups, interspecific effects did not differ from intraspecific effects, nor did effects differ in terrestrial versus aquatic habitats. The effects of competition on herbivores ranged from large effects on anurans and lotic arthropods, to medium effects on marine mollusks and echinoderms, to effects that were not statistically distinguishable from zero for terrestrial arthopods. Interspecific competitive effects among these herbivore groups were generally less than intraspecific effects. Among primary producers, the effects of competition were not different in high- and low-productivity habitats. Across all taxa, large organisms did not experience greater competitive effects than small organisms, and competitive effects did not depend on the size attained in the absence of competitors. The effects of competition were weakly density-dependent in cases in which it was possible to examine the effects of the density of neighbors. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-572
Number of pages34
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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