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A metric of biodiversity that integrates abundance, phylogeny, and function


S. M. Scheiner, Div. of Environmental Biology, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230, USA. E-mail:


A metric of biodiversity is proposed that combines three of its key components: abundance, phylogeny, and ecological function. This metric is an expansion of the current abundance-based metric that uses Hill numbers, the effective number of types in a sample if all types had the same mean proportional abundance. I define analogous proportional measures of phylogenetic divergence and functional distinctiveness. Phylogenetic divergence is measured as the sum of the proportional share of each species of a given branch of a phylogeny. Functional distinctiveness can be measured in two ways, as the proportional share of each species of a specified ecological function, or as the relative distance of each species based on functional trait values. Because all three aspects of biodiversity are measured in the same fashion (relative proportions) in similar units (effective numbers of species), an integrated metric can be defined. The combined metric provides understanding of covariation among the components and how management for one component may trade off against others. The metric can be partitioned into components of richness and evenness, and into subsets and variation among subsets, all of which can be related through a simple multiplicative framework. This metric is a complement to, rather than a replacement of, current metrics of phylogenetic and functional diversity. More work is needed to link this new metric to ecological theory, determine its error structure, and devise methods for its effective assessment.