Determinants of species evenness in a neotropical bat ensemble

Authors


S. Estrada-Villegas, Biology Dept, McGill Univ., 1205 Dr Penfield Avenue, Montreal, H3A1B1, Canada. E-mail: sergio.estradavillegas@mail.mcgill.ca

Abstract

Evenness is an important property of communities. Species richness alone does not capture the fact that one or a few species may dominate total abundance and biomass of a community. This in turn has important consequences for ecosystem functioning and species interactions. Evenness has been observed to vary systematically along environmental and productivity gradients. However, a truly general theory about which factors control evenness in a community has yet to emerge. Prior research on evenness has suggested that high richness, biomass and abundance should lead to lower community evenness in our study system of bats in Panama. However, only few empirical studies examine the simultaneous effects of species richness, biomass or abundance on evenness. For the first time, we applied path analysis in the study of evenness to tease apart the relative importance and direction (positive or negative) of causality among these three factors. As predicted, we found that evenness decreases with increasing species richness, abundance and biomass. The negative effect of abundance was mediated by the positive joint effect of biomass and richness. The selected models varied in the strength of the correlation between the three variables with evenness but their direction was consistent. Overall, we argue that rarity, high mobility and differences in resource availability at sites with lower environmental stress can explain the negative effects of richness on evenness.

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