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A novel genealogical approach to neutral biodiversity theory

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E-mail: r.etienne@biol.rug.nl

Abstract

Current neutral theory in community ecology views local biodiversity as a result of the interplay between speciation, extinction and immigration. Simulations and a mean-field approximation have been used to study this neutral theory. As simulations have limitations of convergence and the mean-field approximation ignores dependencies between species’ abundances when applied to species-abundance data, there is still no final conclusion whether the neutral theory or the traditional lognormal model describes community structure best. We present a novel analytical framework, based on the genealogy of individuals in the local community, to overcome the problems of previous approaches, and show, using Bayesian statistics, that the lognormal model provides a slightly better fit to the species-abundance distribution of a much-discussed tropical tree community. A key feature of our approach is that it shows the tight link between genetic and species diversity, which creates important perspectives to future integration of evolutionary and community ecological theory.

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