Commonness and rarity in the marine biosphere

Connolly, Sean R., Macneil, M. Aaron, Caley, M. Julian, Knowlton, Nancy, Cripps, Ed, Hisano, Mizue, Thibaut, Loïc M., Bhattacharya, Bhaskar D., Benedetti-Cechi, Lisandro, Brainard, Russell E., Brandt, Angelika, Bulleri, Fabio, Ellingsen, Kari E., Kaiser, Stefanie, Kröncke, Ingrid, Linse, Katrin, Maggi, Elena, O'Hara, Timothy D., Plaisance, Laetititia, Poore, Gary C.B., Sarkar, Santosh K., Satpathy, Kamala, Schückel, Ulrike, Williams, Alan, and Wilson, Robin S. (2014) Commonness and rarity in the marine biosphere. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111 (23). pp. 8524-8529.

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Abstract

Explaining patterns of commonness and rarity is fundamental for understanding and managing biodiversity. Consequently, a key test of biodiversity theory has been how well ecological models reproduce empirical distributions of species abundances. However, ecological models with very different assumptions can predict similar species abundance distributions, whereas models with similar assumptions may generate very different predictions. This complicates inferring processes driving community structure from model fits to data. Here, we use an approximation that captures common features of "neutral" biodiversity models—which assume ecological equivalence of species—to test whether neutrality is consistent with patterns of commonness and rarity in the marine biosphere. We do this by analyzing 1,185 species abundance distributions from 14 marine ecosystems ranging from intertidal habitats to abyssal depths, and from the tropics to polar regions. Neutrality performs substantially worse than a classical nonneutral alternative: empirical data consistently show greater heterogeneity of species abundances than expected under neutrality. Poor performance of neutral theory is driven by its consistent inability to capture the dominance of the communities' most-abundant species. Previous tests showing poor performance of a neutral model for a particular system often have been followed by controversy about whether an alternative formulation of neutral theory could explain the data after all. However, our approach focuses on common features of neutral models, revealing discrepancies with a broad range of empirical abundance distributions. These findings highlight the need for biodiversity theory in which ecological differences among species, such as niche differences and demographic trade-offs, play a central role.

Item ID: 38779
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Additional Information:

Freely available from publisher website.

ISSN: 1091-6490
Funders: Ministry for Science and Technology, German Research Foundation (DFG), Census of Marine Life, Australian Research Council (ARC)
Date Deposited: 11 May 2015 02:03
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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