Editor's Summary

14 December 2006

Ecology: act neutral


Neutral theories of ecology, such as Stephen Hubbell's unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography, aim to explain the diversity and relative abundance of species in ecological communities by assuming that differences between similar species are neutral, or irrelevant to their success. Despite the complexity of the species interaction networks involved, the overall behaviour of ecosystems close to a stationary state can show surprising simplicity. Few such studies, however, have tackled the dynamics and stability of tropical rainforests. Azaele et al. have done just that, and have developed an analytical theory of the dynamical evolution of ecosystems. The theory is in good accord with the species turnover distribution in the tropical forest of Barro Colorado Island in Panama. The new model provides a starting point for including factors such as non-neutral dynamics and time and location dependent variations into the basic framework of a neutral model.

LetterDynamical evolution of ecosystems

Sandro Azaele, Simone Pigolotti, Jayanth R. Banavar and Amos Maritan

doi:10.1038/nature05320