intermediate disturbance hypothesis

views updated

intermediate disturbance hypothesis The proposition that the highest diversity of species in an ecosystem is maintained by a level of disturbance intermediate between frequent and rare disturbance. If disturbance is frequent the succession may fail to develop beyond the pioneer phase. If disturbance is rare, the climax will be established and diversity reduced according to the competitive exclusion principle. At intermediate levels of disturbance, the arrival of new species will increase diversity in proportion to the interval between disturbances.