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Trends Ecol Evol. 2006 Aug;21(8):451-7. Epub 2006 Jun 12.

The merits of neutral theory.

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Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 830 North University Av., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1048, USA.


Hubbell's neutral theory of biodiversity has challenged the classic niche-based view of ecological community structure. Although there have been many attempts to falsify Hubbell's theory, we argue that falsification should not lead to rejection, because there is more to the theory than neutrality alone. Much of the criticism has focused on the neutrality assumption without full appreciation of other relevant aspects of the theory. Here, we emphasize that neutral theory is also a stochastic theory, a sampling theory and a dispersal-limited theory. These important additional features should be retained in future theoretical developments of community ecology.

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