Finding your niche: how competition drives patterns of diversity.
Dr Ben Ashby, University of Bath
The concept of niche is central to evolutionary ecology. It plays a fundamental role in our understanding of biodiversity, characterising the relationship between an organism and its environment. The extent to which the niches of two species overlap with each other, for example by having the same food source, gives an indication of the strength of competition between them: greater overlap implies stronger competition. 'Niche' is, however, a very messy area of ecology and is difficult to pin down conceptually. Here, I will discuss the history of the niche concept, including recent developments in this area, and whether models can tell us anything useful or interesting about how patterns of diversity evolve in the real world.