ECOLOGY/EVOLUTION

Think Globally, Conserve Locally

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Science  05 May 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5774, pp. 659
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5774.659a

Insects are undoubtedly the most diverse multicellular organisms on Earth, yet our understanding of the extent of this diversity is still patchy, and to be able to predict patterns of community structure and local diversity would be important in the context of conservation. Finlay et al. analyzed data for more than 600,000 insect species from a wide variety of localities, and report self-similar patterns of body size distribution, species-area relationships, and abundance distributions at spatial scales ranging from a few hectares (Hilbre Island) to the land surface of the entire planet. The similarity of the observed patterns presents a useful tool for monitoring the status of insect communities in the face of human disturbance (including climate change); deviations from the general patterns, such as an unusual distribution of body sizes in an insect community, could provide useful indicators of local extinctions. — AMS

Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. B 273, 10.1098/rspb.2006.3525 (2006).

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