Aim To investigate the relationship between geographical range size and abundance (population density) in Australian passerines.
Location Australia (including Tasmania).
Methods We analysed the relationship between range size and local abundance for 272 species of Australian passerines, across the whole order and within families. We measured abundance as mean and maximum abundance, and used a phylogenetic generalized least-squares regression method within a maximum-likelihood framework to control for effects of phylogeny. We also analysed the relationship within seven different habitat types.
Results There was no correlation between range size and abundance for the whole set of species across all habitats. Analyses within families revealed some strong correlations but showed no consistent pattern. Likewise we found little evidence for any relationship or conflicting patterns in different habitats, except that woodland/forest habitat species exhibit a negative correlation between mean abundance and range size, whilst species in urban habitats exhibit a significant positive relationship between maximum abundance and range size. Despite the general lack of correlation, the raw data plots of range size and abundance in this study occupied a triangular space, with narrowly distributed species exhibiting a greater variation in abundances than widely distributed species. However, using a null model analysis, we demonstrate that this was due to a statistical artefact generated by the frequency distributions for the individual variables.
Conclusions We find no evidence for a positive range size-abundance relationship among Australian passerines. This absence of a relationship cannot be explained by any conflicting effects introduced by comparing across different habitats, nor is it explained by the fact that large proportions of Australia are arid. We speculate that the considerable isolation and evolutionary age of Australian passerines may be an explanatory factor.