We used a one-dimensional, spatially explicit model to simulate the community of small fishes in the freshwater wetlands of southern Florida, USA. The seasonality of rainfall in these wetlands causes annual fluctuations in the amount of flooded area. We modeled fish populations that differed from each other only in efficiency of resource utilization and dispersal ability. The simulations showed that these trade-offs, along with the spatial and temporal variability of the environment, allow coexistence of several species competing exploitatively for a common resource type. This mechanism, while sharing some characteristics with other mechanisms proposed for coexistence of competing species, is novel in detail. Simulated fish densities resembled patterns observed in Everglades empirical data. Cells with hydroperiods less than 6 months accumulated negligible fish biomass. One unique model result was that, when multiple species coexisted, it was possible for one of the coexisting species to have both lower local resource utilization efficiency and lower dispersal ability than one of the other species. This counterintuitive result is a consequence of stronger effects of other competitors on the superior species. ?? 2005 NRC.