Does "supersaturated coexistence" resolve the "paradox of the plankton"?

P. Schippers, A.M. Verschoor, Matthijs Vos, W.M. Mooij

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


In contradiction with field observations, theory predicts that the number of coexisting plankton species at equilibrium cannot exceed the number of limiting resources, which is called the "paradox of the plankton". Recently, Huisman & Weissing (1999, 2000) showed, in a model study, that the number of coexisting species may exceed the number of limiting resources when internal system feedback induces oscillations or chaos. In this paper, we use the term "supersaturated coexistence" for this phenomenon. On the basis of these findings, they claimed that the paradox of the plankton is solved. We investigated the prerequisites for supersaturated coexistence in the same model. Our results indicate that supersaturated coexistence is a rare phenomenon in parameter space, requires a very precise parameterization of the community members and is sensitive to the introduction of new species and the removal of the present species. This raises the question of whether supersaturated coexistence is likely to occur in nature. We conclude that the claim by Huisman & Weissing (1999, 2000) is premature. [KEYWORDS: biodiversity; chemostat; chaos; model;multiple resource competition; oscillations; persistence phytoplankton; supersaturated coexistence Phytoplankton; biodiversity; competition]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-407
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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