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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2011 Sep 12;366(1577):2514-25. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0022.

How diversification rates and diversity limits combine to create large-scale species-area relationships.

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Division of Biology, Imperial College London, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berkshire, UK.


Species-area relationships (SARs) have mostly been treated from an ecological perspective, focusing on immigration, local extinction and resource-based limits to species coexistence. However, a full understanding across large regions is impossible without also considering speciation and global extinction. Rates of both speciation and extinction are known to be strongly affected by area and thus should contribute to spatial patterns of diversity. Here, we explore how variation in diversification rates and ecologically mediated diversity limits among regions of different sizes can result in the formation of SARs. We explain how this area-related variation in diversification can be caused by either the direct effects of area or the effects of factors that are highly correlated with area, such as habitat diversity and population size. We also review environmental, clade-specific and historical factors that affect diversification and diversity limits but are not highly correlated with region area, and thus are likely to cause scatter in observed SARs. We present new analyses using data on the distributions, ages and traits of mammalian species to illustrate these mechanisms; in doing so we provide an integrated perspective on the evolutionary processes shaping SARs.

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