Species richness vs evenness: independent relationship and different responses to edaphic factors


  • Maohua Ma

M. Ma, Dept of Applied Biology, Univ. of Helsinki P.O. Box 27, FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland (ma.maohua@helsinki.fi).


The main components of species diversity are richness and evenness. Species richness has been the subject of biodiversity studies more often than species evenness. Some simulated models suggest that the relationship between these two components is equal and predictable in a stable environment. This study was conducted in a human-shaped and unstable environment in arable field boundaries. A total of 30 sampling plots were laid out at random in the boundaries. Vegetation at the sites was of meadow type. The relationship between species richness and evenness, and their responses to edaphic nutrient factors in the field boundaries, were examined by correlation analysis and an ordination method. Correlation analyses demonstrated that no consistent pattern was present in the relationship between species evenness and species richness in this human-shaped ecosystem. Species richness and evenness also had different responses to edaphic factors, with species richness being negatively correlated with phosphorus, and species evenness negatively correlated with the ratio of organic carbon to total nitrogen in soil. The results indicate that different and independent ecological processes determine species richness and evenness. The relationship between these two components may be site-specific, reflecting variation in resource utilization by plant species. The pattern thus reflects the spatial heterogeneity of disturbances or ‘patchiness’ of resources between sites in a semi-natural ecosystem.