Resource Partitioning refers to the division of resources to avoid interspecific competition for limited resources in an ecosystem. It is an evolutionary adaptation that helps various species coexist in an ecological community.
Resource partitioning studies help in determining the effect of the addition or removal of a species in a particular habitat and the functioning of an ecosystem.
In an ecosystem, organisms require resources such as nutrients and habitats to grow, reproduce and live. There are limited resources present in a habitat for which all organisms compete. An ecosystem holds thousands of species and maintains rich biodiversity.
There are two main types of competition; Interspecific and Intraspecific. Interspecific competition refers to the competition for resources among individuals of different species, whereas intraspecific competition refers to the competition within a species. Similar species have similar requirements and compete for resources.
In interspecific competition, if two species compete for the same resources, then either the weaker species become extinct or occupy a different niche.
Niche is the functional or ecological role played by an organism in an ecosystem. It defines the set of conditions such as food, environmental factors, interactions, etc. required for a species to survive. If two species compete for a limited resource and utilise it in the same way, i.e. occupy the same niche, then they cannot coexist.
Resource partitioning is an evolutionary adaptation to reduce competition and favours coexistence.
Examples of Resource Partitioning
Resource partitioning helps in dividing limited resources so that different species utilise the different parts of a resource, slightly different resources or the same resource at different times or at different places in order to meet their requirements.
It refers to occupying different microhabitats within a habitat to reduce competition for resources by different species. E.g. Different anole lizard species found on the island of Puerto Rico have similar requirements for food. They occupy different areas of habitat such as some live on forest floors and some on the trees, shrubs, etc. This way, resource partitioning helps in reducing interspecific competition and helps in their coexistence.
Different species may consume different parts of a food resource, e.g. some may eat the leaves or stem and some may eat fruits or nectar of plants. Thus, different species coexist and are able to satisfy their needs from the limited resources present. Some species are active during the daytime and some are more active during the night. Thus, resource partitioning helps in the coexistence of different species.
E.g. Different species of bumblebees present in the mountains of Colorado are adapted to derive nectar from flowers of different species of plants based on the length of the corolla. The length of the proboscis of different species of bumblebee species is in accordance with the corolla length to facilitate nectar consumption.
Therefore, resource partitioning helps in the coexistence of species in the same habitat. This explains how similar species survive the competition in an ecological niche and do not lead to the extinction of the weaker species and a rich biodiversity is maintained in an ecosystem.
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