Competition in Ecological Systems: Definition and Types


Competition is a fundamental ecological process that occurs when two or more organisms vie for the same limited resources within an ecosystem. It plays a crucial role in shaping the structure and dynamics of ecological communities, influencing species distribution, abundance, and evolutionary processes. In this article, we will explore the definition of competition and delve into the different types of competition that occur in ecological systems.

Definition of Competition

Competition in ecology refers to the interaction between individuals or species that compete for the same resources, such as food, water, shelter, or mates. It occurs when the availability of these resources is limited relative to the number of organisms seeking them. The competitive interactions can be direct, involving aggressive encounters or interference, or indirect, through the exploitation of shared resources.

Types of Competition

  • 1. Intraspecific Competition: Intraspecific competition occurs between individuals of the same species. It arises when individuals within a population compete for limited resources. For example, plants in a crowded forest may compete for sunlight, water, and nutrients. Intraspecific competition can lead to the development of traits that enhance an individual’s competitive ability, such as increased size, strength, or reproductive success.
  • 2. Interspecific Competition: Interspecific competition takes place between individuals of different species. It arises when different species share similar resource requirements and compete for those resources. For instance, multiple bird species may compete for the same nesting sites or food sources. Interspecific competition can lead to niche differentiation, where species evolve to occupy different ecological niches to reduce competition and coexist.
  • 3. Exploitative Competition: Exploitative competition, also known as resource competition, occurs when individuals or species indirectly compete for shared resources. It involves the depletion or reduction of a resource by one organism, making it less available to others. For example, plants in a grassland ecosystem may compete for limited water or nutrients in the soil. The more efficient or dominant competitors can outcompete others and gain a larger share of the resources.
  • 4. Interference Competition: Interference competition involves direct interactions and interference between individuals or species. It occurs when one organism actively hinders or prevents another organism from accessing or utilizing a resource. Examples include territorial disputes among animals or plants secreting chemicals that inhibit the growth of nearby individuals. Interference competition can lead to the exclusion of certain individuals or species from specific habitats or resources.
  • 5. Apparent Competition: Apparent competition occurs when two or more species indirectly compete with each other due to their shared interactions with a common predator, parasite, or herbivore. The presence of one species may increase the population size or activity of the shared predator or parasite, which then negatively affects the other species. This type of competition highlights the interconnectedness of species within ecological communities.


Competition is a fundamental ecological process that occurs when individuals or species compete for limited resources within an ecosystem. It can be categorized into intraspecific and interspecific competition, as well as exploitative, interference, and apparent competition. Understanding the different types of competition is essential for comprehending the dynamics of ecological communities, species interactions, and the distribution and abundance of organisms within ecosystems.

[Intraspecific competition](
[Interspecific competition](
[Exploitative competition](
[Interference competition](
[Apparent competition](

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