Send to

Choose Destination
Nature. 2007 Nov 1;450(7166):45-9.

Patterns of relative species abundance in rainforests and coral reefs.

Author information

Department of Physics, 104 Davey Laboratory, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.


A formidable many-body problem in ecology is to understand the complex of factors controlling patterns of relative species abundance (RSA) in communities of interacting species. Unlike many problems in physics, the nature of the interactions in ecological communities is not completely known. Although most contemporary theories in ecology start with the basic premise that species interact, here we show that a theory in which all interspecific interactions are turned off leads to analytical results that are in agreement with RSA data from tropical forests and coral reefs. The assumption of non-interacting species leads to a sampling theory for the RSA that yields a simple approximation at large scales to the exact theory. Our results show that one can make significant theoretical progress in ecology by assuming that the effective interactions among species are weak in the stationary states in species-rich communities such as tropical forests and coral reefs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center