Review

Neutral Macroecology

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Science  28 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5539, pp. 2413-2418
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5539.2413

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Abstract

The central themes of community ecology—distribution, abundance, and diversity—display strongly marked and very general patterns. These include the log-normal distribution of abundance, the relation between range and abundance, the species-area law, and the turnover of species composition. Each pattern is the subject of a large literature that interprets it in terms of ecological processes, typically involving the sorting of differently specialized species onto heterogeneous landscapes. All of these patterns can be shown to arise, however, from neutral community models in which all individuals have identical properties, as the consequence of local dispersal alone. This implies, at the least, that functional interpretations of these patterns must be reevaluated. More fundamentally, neutral community models provide a general theory for biodiversity and conservation biology capable of predicting the fundamental processes and patterns of community ecology.

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