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Title: Permanence via invasion graphs: incorporating community assembly into modern coexistence theory

To understand the mechanisms underlying species coexistence, ecologists often study invasion growth rates of theoretical and data-driven models. These growth rates correspond to average per-capita growth rates of one species with respect to an ergodic measure supporting other species. In the ecological literature, coexistence often is equated with the invasion growth rates being positive. Intuitively, positive invasion growth rates ensure that species recover from being rare. To provide a mathematically rigorous framework for this approach, we prove theorems that answer two questions: (i) When do the signs of the invasion growth rates determine coexistence? (ii) When signs are sufficient, which invasion growth rates need to be positive? We focus on deterministic models and equate coexistence with permanence, i.e., a global attractor bounded away from extinction. For models satisfying certain technical assumptions, we introduce invasion graphs where vertices correspond to proper subsets of species (communities) supporting an ergodic measure and directed edges correspond to potential transitions between communities due to invasions by missing species. These directed edges are determined by the signs of invasion growth rates. When the invasion graph is acyclic (i.e. there is no sequence of invasions starting and ending at the same community), we show that permanence more » is determined by the signs of the invasion growth rates. In this case, permanence is characterized by the invasibility of all$$-i$$-icommunities, i.e., communities without speciesiwhere all other missing species have negative invasion growth rates. To illustrate the applicability of the results, we show that dissipative Lotka-Volterra models generically satisfy our technical assumptions and computing their invasion graphs reduces to solving systems of linear equations. We also apply our results to models of competing species with pulsed resources or sharing a predator that exhibits switching behavior. Open problems for both deterministic and stochastic models are discussed. Our results highlight the importance of using concepts about community assembly to study coexistence.

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Journal of Mathematical Biology
Springer Science + Business Media
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National Science Foundation
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