Document Type

Article

Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date

7-2010

Journal or Book Title

Ecology

Volume

91

Issue

7

First Page

1984

Last Page

1988

Abstract

Whittaker (1960, 1972) first proposed the idea that species diversity has spatial components, with alpha diversity estimating diversity within individual stands (or communities) and beta diversity estimating the number of community types in an area (or in Whittaker’s terminology, ‘‘differentiation of communities along gradients’’). These two values combined make up gamma diversity. Beta diversity is important because it provides the conceptual link between local and regional diversity, more directly measures how soil types, disturbance, and dispersal affect diversity, and is helpful in understanding why species loss is sometimes smaller than predicted by theory (Wilsey et al. 2005). Many interesting and longstanding questions are applied across scales, such as how much diversity is found within islands vs. across islands? Is the number of habitat types (i.e., beta) within islands key to explaining diversity at larger scales or is it the greater population sizes found on large islands? Furthermore, a consideration of both alpha and beta is necessary for understanding how diversity arises and is maintained in diverse systems. For example, in the northern Great Plains, we have found that remnant prairies can contain over 120 plant species within a small area (Wilsey et al. 2005); this occurs because of high diversity at the neighborhood scale where 20–25 species are found per square meter (Martin et al. 2005), and from species accumulation across neighborhoods (i.e., beta).

Comments

This article is from Ecology 91 (2010): 1984. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

Ecological Society of America

Language

en

File Format

application/pdf

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