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Naturwissenschaften. 2010 Mar;97(3):265-71. doi: 10.1007/s00114-009-0636-4. Epub 2009 Dec 23.

A multi-scale study of Orthoptera species richness and human population size controlling for sampling effort.

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  • 1School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus, Poole, BH12 5BB, Bournemouth, UK.


Recent large-scale studies have shown that biodiversity-rich regions also tend to be densely populated areas. The most obvious explanation is that biodiversity and human beings tend to match the distribution of energy availability, environmental stability and/or habitat heterogeneity. However, the species-people correlation can also be an artefact, as more populated regions could show more species because of a more thorough sampling. Few studies have tested this sampling bias hypothesis. Using a newly collated dataset, we studied whether Orthoptera species richness is related to human population size in Italy's regions (average area 15,000 km(2)) and provinces (2,900 km(2)). As expected, the observed number of species increases significantly with increasing human population size for both grain sizes, although the proportion of variance explained is minimal at the provincial level. However, variations in observed Orthoptera species richness are primarily associated with the available number of records, which is in turn well correlated with human population size (at least at the regional level). Estimated Orthoptera species richness (Chao2 and Jackknife) also increases with human population size both for regions and provinces. Both for regions and provinces, this increase is not significant when controlling for variation in area and number of records. Our study confirms the hypothesis that broad-scale human population-biodiversity correlations can in some cases be artefactual. More systematic sampling of less studied taxa such as invertebrates is necessary to ascertain whether biogeographical patterns persist when sampling effort is kept constant or included in models.

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