Mortality (e.g. predation, disturbance) is often thought to lower the intensity of interspecific competition and thereby promote the coexistence of competing species. However, surprisingly few tests of this idea exist, especially for metazoans feeding on a self-renewing resource. Here we examined the effect of density-independent mortality on the coexistence of four species of pond zooplankton (microcrustacean grazers) in a series of laboratory microcosms. Across the experimental mortality gradient, consumer biomass decreased and resource abundance increased with an increase in mortality. Thus, the treatments resulted in an increase in resource availability per consumer (one measure of reduced competitive intensity). There was no significant effect of mortality treatment on species relative abundances or species evenness, and the zooplankter Diaphanosoma dominated community biomass at all mortality levels. Mortality rate did have a marginally significant effect on species richness (p <0.07), but richness did not increase monotonically with mortality level. Instead, richness tended to be highest in the low- and no-mortality treatments.
Mittelbach, G. G. A., Darcy-Hall, T. L. A., Dorn, N. J. C., Garcia, E., Steiner, C. F. D., & Wojdak, J. M. A. B. (2004). The impact of density-independent mortality on species coexistence: An experimental test with zooplankton. OIKOS, 107(2), 415-421. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0030-1299.2004.13182.x