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Am Nat. 2008 Oct;172(4):519-32. doi: 10.1086/590954.

Species diversity and distribution in presence-absence matrices: mathematical relationships and biological implications.

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  • 1Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 70-275, CP 04510 Mexico City, Mexico.


The diversity of sites and the distribution of species are fundamental pieces in the analysis of biogeographic and macroecological questions. A link between these two variables is the correlation between the species diversity of sites and the mean range size of species occurring there. Alternatively, one could correlate the range sizes of species and the mean species diversity within those ranges. Here we show that both approaches are mirror images of the same patterns, reflecting fundamental mathematical and biological relationships. We develop a theory and analyze data for North American mammals to interpret range-diversity plots in which the species diversity of sites and the geographic range of species can be depicted simultaneously. We show that such plots contain much more information than traditional correlative approaches do, and we demonstrate that the positions of points in the plots are determined to a large extent by the average, minimum, and maximum values of range and diversity but that the dispersion of points depends on the association among species and the similitude among sites. These generalizations can be applied to biogeographic studies of diversity and distribution and in the identification of hotspots of diversity and endemism.

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