Feb 19, 2016

Do persistent rare species experience stronger negative frequency dependence than common species?

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Glenda YenniMorgan Ernest


Understanding why so many species are rare yet persistent remains a significant challenge for both theoretical and empirical ecologists. Yenni, Adler, and Ernest (2012) proposed that strong negative frequency dependence causes species to be rare while simultaneously buffering them against extinction. This hypothesis predicts that, on average, rare species should experience stronger negative frequency dependence than common species. However, it is unknown if ecological communities generally show this theoretical pattern, or if rarity is primarily determined by other processes that overwhelm the effects of strong negative frequency dependence. We discuss the implications of this mechanism for natural communities, and develop a method to test for a non-random relationship between negative frequency dependence and relative abundance, using species abundance data from 90 communities across a broad range of environments and taxonomic groups. To account for biases introduced by measurement error, we compared the observed correlation between species relative abundance and the strength of frequency dependence against expectations from a randomization procedure. In approximately half of the analyzed communities, rare species showed dispr...Continue Reading

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