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Can unified theories of biodiversity explain mammalian macroecological patterns?

By Kate E. Jones, Tim M. Blackburn and Nick J. B. Isaac


The idea of a unifying theory of biodiversity linking the diverse array of macroecological patterns into a common theoretical framework is very appealing. We explore this idea to examine currently proposed unified theories of biodiversity (UTBs) and their predictions. Synthesising the literature on the macroecological patterns of mammals, we critically evaluate the evidence to support these theories. We find general qualitative support for the UTBs’ predictions within mammals, but rigorous testing is hampered by the types of data typically collected in studies of mammals. In particular, abundance is rarely estimated for entire mammalian communities or of individual species in multiple locations, reflecting the logistical challenges of studying wild mammal populations. By contrast, there are numerous macroecological patterns (especially allometric scaling relationships) that are extremely well characterised for mammals, but which fall outside the scope of current UTBs. We consider how these theories might be extended to explain mammalian biodiversity patterns more generally. Specifically, we suggest that UTBs need to incorporate the dimensions of geographic space, species’ traits and time to reconcile theory with pattern

Topics: Zoology, Ecology and Environment
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0119
OAI identifier:

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