The power of time: spatiotemporal scaling of species diversity

Authors

  • Peter B. Adler,

    Corresponding author
    1. Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Natural Resources, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
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  • William K. Lauenroth

    1. Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Natural Resources, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
    2. Department of Forest, Range, and Watershed Stewardship, Natural Resources, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
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* E-mail: petera@lamar.colostate.edu

Abstract

The species–area relationship (SAR) provides the foundation for much of theoretical ecology and conservation practice. However, by ignoring time the SAR offers an incomplete model for biodiversity dynamics. We used long-term data from permanent plots in Kansas grasslands, USA, to show that the increase in the number of species found with increasing periods of observation takes the same power-law form as the SAR. A statistical model including time, area, and their interaction explains 98% of variation in mean species number and demonstrates that while the effect of time depends on area, and vice versa, time has strong effects on species number even at relatively broad spatial scales. Our results suggest equivalence of underlying processes in space and time and raise questions about the diversity estimates currently used by basic researchers and conservation practitioners.

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