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Am Nat. 2002 Feb;159(2):138-55. doi: 10.1086/324787.

Species-area curves, diversity indices, and species abundance distributions: a multifractal analysis.

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Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA.


Although fractals have been applied in ecology for some time, multifractals have, in contrast, received little attention. In this article, we apply multifractals to the species-area relationship and species abundance distributions. We highlight two results: first, species abundance distributions collected at different spatial scales may collapse into a single curve after appropriate renormalization, and second, the power-law form of the species-area relationship and the Shannon, Simpson, and Berger-Parker diversity indices belong to a family of equations relating the species number, species abundance, and area through the moments of the species abundance-probability density function. Explicit formulas for these diversity indices, as a function of area, are derived. Methods to obtain the multifractal spectra from a data set are discussed, and an example is shown with data on tree and shrub species collected in a 50-ha plot on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Finally, we discuss the implications of the multifractal formalism to the relationship between species range and abundance and the relation between the shape of the species abundance distribution and area.

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