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Sampling Hubbell's neutral theory of biodiversity

Authors

  • David Alonso,

    Corresponding author
    1. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan 830 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor MI 48109-1048, USA
    2. ICREA-Complex Systems Lab, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Dr Aiguader 80, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
      E-mail: dalonso@umich.edu
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  • Alan J. McKane

    1. Department of Theoretical Physics, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
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E-mail: dalonso@umich.edu

Abstract

In the context of neutral theories of community ecology, a novel genealogy-based framework has recently furnished an analytic extension of Ewens’ sampling multivariate abundance distribution, which also applies to a random sample from a local community. Here, instead of taking a multivariate approach, we further develop the sampling theory of Hubbell's neutral spatially implicit theory and derive simple abundance distributions for a random sample both from a local community and a metacommunity. Our result is given in terms of the average number of species with a given abundance in any randomly extracted sample. Contrary to what has been widely assumed, a random sample from a metacommunity is not fully described by the Fisher log-series, but by a new distribution. This new sample distribution matches the log-series expectation at high biodiversity values (θ > 1) but clearly departs from it for species-poor metacommunities (θ < 1). Our theoretical framework should be helpful in the better assessment of diversity and testing of the neutral theory by using abundance data.

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