What ecological factors shape species-area curves in neutral models?
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Understanding factors that shape biodiversity and species coexistence across scales is of utmost importance in ecology, both theoretically and for conservation policies. Species-area relationships (SARs), measuring how the number of observed species increases upon enlarging the sampled area, constitute a convenient tool for quantifying the spatial structure of biodiversity. While general features of species-area curves are quite universal across ecosystems, some quantitative aspects can change significantly. Several attempts have been made to link these variations to ecological forces. Within the framework of spatially explicit neutral models, here we scrutinize the effect of varying the local population size (i.e. the number of individuals per site) and the level of habitat saturation (allowing for empty sites). We conclude that species-area curves become shallower when the local population size increases, while habitat saturation, unless strongly violated, plays a marginal role. Our findings provide a plausible explanation of why SARs for microorganisms are flatter than those for larger organisms.
CitationCencini, M.; Pigolotti, S.; Muñoz, M.A. What ecological factors shape species-area curves in neutral models?. "PLoS One", 04 Juny 2012, vol. 7, núm. 6, p. 1-8.