Species abundance dynamics under neutral assumptions: a Bayesian approach to the controversy

Authors

  • Crispin M. Mutshinda,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Mathematics and Statistics, PO Box 68 (Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2b), FIN-00014, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; and
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  • Robert B. O’Hara,

    1. Department of Mathematics and Statistics, PO Box 68 (Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2b), FIN-00014, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; and
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  • Ian P. Woiwod

    1. Plant and Invertebrate Ecology Division, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts. AL5 2JQ, UK
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*Correspondence author. E-mail: crispin.mutshindamwanza@helsinki.fi

Summary

  • 1Hubbell's ‘Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography’ (UNTB) has generated much controversy about both the realism of its assumptions and how well it describes the species abundance dynamics in real communities.
  • 2We fit a discrete-time version of Hubbell's neutral model to long-term macro-moth (Lepidoptera) community data from the Rothamsted Insect Survey (RIS) light-traps network in the United Kingdom.
  • 3We relax the assumption of constant community size and use a hierarchical Bayesian approach to show that the model does not fit the data well as it would need parameter values that are impossible.
  • 4This is because the ecological communities fluctuate more than expected under neutrality.
  • 5The model, as presented here, can be extended to include environmental stochasticity, density-dependence, or changes in population sizes that are correlated between different species.

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