Character displacement fosters species coexistence by promoting differences between species in resource use (resource partitioning) and in reproductive traits (reproductive partitioning). By promoting niche differences, character displacement lessens costly competitive interactions, reduces the risks of competitive or reproductive exclusion, and thereby increases the chances of species coexistence and diversity within communities. Beyond its effects on species coexistence, character displacement has the further potential to alter population dynamics, extinction risk, and, concomitantly, species’ ranges. Studying character displacement can therefore reveal how the fitness consequences of interactions between species potentially translate into large-scale patterns of species richness, distributions, and diversity. Thus, the study of character displacement provides a unifying framework for understanding the maintenance, abundance, and distribution of biodiversity.
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