The decoupling of abundance and species richness in lizard communities Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • 1. Patterns of species richness often correlate strongly with measures of energy. The more individuals hypothesis (MIH) proposes that this relationship is facilitated by greater resources supporting larger populations, which are less likely to become extinct. Hence, the MIH predicts that community abundance and species richness will be positively related. 2. Recently, Buckley & Jetz (2010, Journal of Animal Ecology, 79, 358-365) documented a decoupling of community abundance and species richness in lizard communities in south-west United States, such that richer communities did not contain more individuals. They predicted, as a consequence of the mechanisms driving the decoupling, a more even distribution of species abundances in species-rich communities, evidenced by a positive relationship between species evenness and species richness. 3. We found a similar decoupling of the relationship between abundance and species richness for lizard communities in semi-arid south-eastern Australia. However, we note that a positive relationship between evenness and richness is expected because of the nature of the indices used. We illustrate this mathematically and empirically using data from both sets of lizard communities. When we used a measure of evenness, which is robust to species richness, there was no relationship between evenness and richness in either data set. 4. For lizard communities in both Australia and the United States, species dominance decreased as species richness increased. Further, with the iterative removal of the first, second and third most dominant species from each community, the relationship between abundance and species richness became increasingly more positive. 5. Our data support the contention that species richness in lizard communities is not directly related to the number of individuals an environment can support. We propose an alternative hypothesis regarding how the decoupling of abundance and richness is accommodated; namely, an inverse relationship between species dominance and species richness, possibly because of ecological release.

publication date

  • May 2011