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Relative species abundance

Relative species abundance

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Published by: muluyet2005 on Apr 16, 2011
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Relative species abundance1
Relative species abundance
Relative species abundance
is a component of biodiversity and refers to how common or rare a species is relative toother species in a defined location or community.
Relative species abundances tend to conform to specific patternsthat are among the best-known and most-studied patterns in macroecology.
Relative species abundance
Figure 1
. Relative species abundance of beetlessampled from the river Thames showing theuniversal
hollow curve
. (derived from datapresented in Magurran (2004)[2]and collected byWilliams (1964)[3])
Relative species abundance and species richness describe key elementsof biodiversity.
Relative species abundance refers to how common orrare a species is relative to other species in a given location orcommunity.
Usually relative species abundances are described fora single trophic level. Because such species occupy the same trophiclevel they will potentially or actually compete for similar resources.
For example, relative species abundances might describe all terrestrialbirds in a forest community or all planktonic copepods in a particularmarine environment.Relative species abundances follow very similar patterns over a widerange of ecological communities. When plotted as a histogram of thenumber of species represented by 1, 2, 3,
individuals usually fit ahollow curve, such that most species are rare, (represented by a singleindividual in a community sample) and relatively few species are abundant (represented by a large number of individuals in a community sample)(Figure 1).
This pattern has been long-recognized and can be broadlysummarized with the statement that
most species are rare
For example, Charles Darwin noted in 1859 in theOrigin of Species that
rarity is the attribute of vast numbers of species in all classes
Species abundance patterns can be best visualized in the form of relative abundance distribution plots. Theconsistency of relative species abundance patterns suggests that some common macroecological
or processdetermines the distribution of individuals among species within a trophic level.
Distribution plots
Figure 2
 Preston plot 
of beetles sampled fromthe river Thames showing a strong right-skew.[2][3]
Relative species abundance distributions are usually graphed asfrequency histograms (
Preston Plots
; Figure 2)
or rank-abundancediagrams ("Whittaker Plots
; Figure 3).
Frequency histogram (Preston Plot)
: logarithm of abundance bins (usually log
(becausethis was historically a simple way to approximate thenatural log))
: number of species at given abundance
Rank-abundance diagram (Whittaker Plot)
: species list, ranked in order of descendingabundance (i.e. from common to rare)
: logarithm of % relative abundance
Relative species abundance2
Figure 3
Whittaker plot 
of beetles sampled fromthe river Thames showing a slight "s"-shape.[2][3]
When plotted in these ways, relative species abundances from wildlydifferent data sets show similar patterns: frequency histograms tend tobe right-skewed (e.g. Figure 2) and rank-abundance diagrams tend toconform to the curves illustrated in Figure 4.
Understanding relative species abundancepatterns
Researchers attempting to understand relative species abundancepatterns usually approach them in a descriptive or mechanistic way.Using a descriptive approach biologists attempt to fit a mathematicalmodel to real data sets and infer the underlying biological principles atwork from the model parameters. By contrast, mechanistic approachescreate a mathematical model based on biological principles and then test how well these models fit real data sets.
Descriptive approaches
Geometric series (Motomura 1932)
Figure 4
. Generic Rank-abundance diagram of three common mathematical models used to fitspecies abundance distributions: Motomura'sgeometric series, Fisher's logseries, and Preston'slog-normal series (modified from Magurran1988)[10]
Relative species abundance3
Figure 5
. Plant succession in abandoned fieldswithin Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY.Species abundances conform to the geometricseries during early succession but approachlognormal as the community ages. (modifiedfrom Whittaker 1972[11])
I. Motomura developed the geometric series model based on benthiccommunity data in a lake.
Within the geometric series each species
level of abundance is a sequential, constant proportion (
) of the totalnumber of individuals in the community. Thus if 
is 0.5, the mostcommon species would represent half of individuals in the community(50%), the second most common species would represent half of theremaining half (25%), the third, half of the remaining quarter (12.5%)and so forth.Although Motomura originally developed the model as a statistical(descriptive) means to plot observed abundances, the
of hispaper by Western researchers in 1965 led to the model being used as aniche apportionment model
niche-preemption model
In amechanistic model
represents the proportion of the resource baseacquired by a given species. The geometric series rank-abundancediagram is linear with a slope of 
, and reflects a rapid decrease inspecies abundances by rank (Figure 4).
The geometric series does not explicitly assume that species colonize anarea sequentially, however, the model fits the concept of niche preemption, where species sequentially colonize aregion and the first species to arrive receives the majority of resources.
The geometric series model fits observedspecies abundances in highly uneven communities with low diversity.
This is expected to occur in terrestrial plantcommunities (as these assemblages often show strong dominance) as well as communities at early successionalstages and those in harsh or isolated environments (Figure 5).
Logseries (Fisher
et al 
= the number of species in the sampled community
= the number of individuals sampled= a constant derived from the sample data setThe logseries was developed by Ronald Fisher to fit two different abundance data sets: British moth species(collected by Carrington Williams) and Malaya butterflies (collected by Alexander Steven Corbet).
The logicbehind the derivation of the logseries is varied
however Fisher proposed that sampled species abundances wouldfollow a negative binomial from which the zero abundance class (species too rare to be sampled) was eliminated.
He also assumed that the total number of species in a community was infinite. Together, this produced the logseriesdistribution (Figure 4). The logseries predicts the number of species at different levels of abundance (
individuals)with the formula:
S = the number of species with an abundance of 
n x
= a positive constant (0 <
< 1) which is derived from the sample data set and generally approaches 1 invalueThe number of species with 1, 2, 3,
individuals are therefore:

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