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Protist. 2002 Sep;153(3):261-73.

Hypothesis: the rate and scale of dispersal of freshwater diatom species is a function of their global abundance.

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  • 1CEH Windermere, Ambleside, Cumbria, UK.


We have analysed the geographical records of a representative selection of extant diatom species from a freshwater pond. The more often a species is recorded in the ecological literature, the greater is its apparent global distribution. One explanation is that the frequently recorded species are globally abundant, whereas species that are infrequently recorded are globally rare. We suggest a model in which random dispersal is the dominant force driving large-scale distribution of species, with the rate and scale of dispersal largely determined by global population size. Thus species that are locally rare or abundant are likewise rare or abundant worldwide. It is predicted that many of the rarer diatom species will, with additional sampling effort, be shown to have wide geographical distribution, but this requires intensive studies focused on revealing species that are normally cryptic. The argument in favour of endemic diatom species is untenable, because it is not possible to disprove their existence elsewhere in the biosphere.

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