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Species co-occurrences and neutral models: reassessing J. M. Diamond's assembly rules


  • Werner Ulrich

W. Ulrich, Nicolaus Copernicus Univ. Toruń, Dept of Animal Ecology, Gagarina 9, PL-87-100 Toruń, Poland (


The question whether species co-occurrence patterns are non-random has intrigued ecology for more than two decades. Recently Gotelli and McCabe used meta-analysis to show that natural assemblages indeed tend to have non-random species co-occurrence patterns and that these patterns are in line with the predictions of Diamond's assembly rule model. Here I show that neutral ecological drift models are able to generate patterns in line with Diamond's assembly rules and very similar to the empirical results in Gotelli and McCabe. Ecological drift shifted species co-occurrence patterns (measured by C-scores, checkerboard scores and species combination scores) of model species placed into a grid of the 25 cells (sites; metacommunity sizes 5 to 25 species with 100 individuals each) significantly from an initial random pattern towards a pattern predicted by the assembly rule model of Diamond. These findings imply that instead of asking whether natural communities are structured according to some assembly rules we should ask whether these non-random patterns are generated by species interactions or by stochastic drift processes.