A dynamical model of communities and a new species-abundance distribution

The Biological Bulletin
A K Dewdney


It is known to many field biologists that biosurveys of natural communities tend to produce a J-shaped curve when the numbers of species are plotted against abundance. In other words, when the number of species of abundance k is plotted against k (running from 1 to some large number), the resulting distribution peaks at the lowest abundance, then forms a concave ramp as it approaches zero at the far end of the abundance axis. Does this distribution represent a single formula operating behind the scenes, or does it represent several formulas, appropriate for different types of community? Or does it represent no particular formula at all? The research reported here has three components: (1) The analysis of a new dynamical system that simulates multispecies communities (producing J-curves in the process) and the derivation of the "logistic-J" distribution, as the underlying community equilibrium curve; (2) the summary of a general theory of sampling as a bridge between natural communities and samples of them; (3) the evaluation of extant proposals for species-abundance distributions by application of a general theory of sampling or by cross-comparison via 100 biosurveys randomly selected from the literature.

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