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Oecologia. 2007 Aug;153(1):153-62. Epub 2007 Mar 31.

Abundance matters: a field experiment testing the more individuals hypothesis for richness-productivity relationships.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics Section, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4120, USA.


The more individuals hypothesis (MIH) postulates that productivity increases species richness by increasing mean equilibrium population size, thereby reducing the probability of local extinction. We tested the MIH for invertebrates colonizing microcosms that simulated tree holes by manipulating productivity through additions of leaf or animal detritus and subsequently determining the relationships among richness, total abundance, abundance per species, and measures of productivity. We quantified productivity as the rate of microorganism protein synthesis, microorganism metabolic rate, nutrient ion concentration, and type and amount of detritus. Microcosms with animal detritus attracted more species, more individuals per species, and more total individuals than did microcosms with similar amounts of leaf detritus. Relationships between richness or abundance and productivity varied with date. Richness in June increased as a linear function of productivity, whereas the power function predicted by the MIH fit best in July. Abundance in June and July was best described by a power function of productivity, but the linear function predicted by the MIH fit best in September. Abundance per species was best described by a power function of productivity in June and July. Path analysis showed that the indirect effect of productivity through abundance on richness that is predicted by MIH was important in all months, and that direct links between productivity and richness were unnecessary. Our results support many of the predictions of the MIH, but they also suggest that the effects of abundance on richness may be more complex than expected.

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