Grime, J. P. “Evidence for the Existence of Three Primary Strategies in Plants and Its Relevance to Ecological and Evolutionary Theory.” The American Naturalist, vol. 111, no. 982, 1977, pp. 1169–1194. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2460262.
Full article (PDF): http://www.geobotany.org/teaching/biol474/journals/grime1977amnat_v111p1169-150.pdf
The external factors limiting plant biomass in any habitat may be classified into two categories. The first, which henceforth will be described as stress, consists of the conditions that restrict production, e.g. shortages of light, water, or mineral nutrients and subtropical temperatures. The second, referred to here as disturbance, is associated with the partial or total destruction of the plant biomass and arises from the activities of herbivores, pathogens, man (trampling, mowing, plowing) and from phenomena such as wind damage, frosts, desiccation, soil erosion, and fire.
When the four permutations of high and low stress and high and low disturbance (table 1), it is apparent that only three are viable as plant habitats.
It is suggested that each of the three remaining contingencies has been associated with the evolutions of a distinct type of strategy, i.e. low stress with low disturbance (competitive plants), high stress with low disturbance (stress-tolerant plants), and low stress with high disturbance (ruderal plants).
This appears to apply pretty broadly outside of the domain of land plants…..seemingly to everything photosynthetic (i.e. corals, algae, et al). Maybe to all life, period.