Is regional species diversity bounded or unbounded?

Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
Howard V Cornell

Abstract

Two conflicting hypotheses have been proposed to explain large-scale species diversity patterns and dynamics. The unbounded hypothesis proposes that regional diversity depends only on time and diversification rate and increases without limit. The bounded hypothesis proposes that ecological constraints place upper limits on regional diversity and that diversity is usually close to its limit. Recent evidence from the fossil record, phylogenetic analysis, biogeography, and phenotypic disparity during lineage diversification suggests that diversity is constrained by ecological processes but that it is rarely asymptotic. Niche space is often unfilled or can be more finely subdivided and still permit coexistence, and new niche space is often created before ecological limits are reached. Damped increases in diversity over time are the prevalent pattern, suggesting the need for a new 'damped increase hypothesis'. The damped increase hypothesis predicts that diversity generally increases through time but that its rate of increase is often slowed by ecological constraints. However, slowing due to niche limitation must be distinguished from other possible mechanisms creating similar patterns. These include sampling artifacts, the inabilit...Continue Reading

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