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Global patterns in biodiversity

Abstract

To a first approximation, the distribution of biodiversity across the Earth can be described in terms of a relatively small number of broad-scale spatial patterns. Although these patterns are increasingly well documented, understanding why they exist constitutes one of the most significant intellectual challenges to ecologists and biogeographers. Theory is, however, developing rapidly, improving in its internal consistency, and more readily subjected to empirical challenge.

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Figure 1: Spatial patterns in species richness.
Figure 2: Species–energy relationships.
Figure 3
Figure 4: Relationships between species richness of different vertebrate groups (in grid cells of 240 km × 240 km) across Australia.

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Acknowledgements

I thank T. M. Blackburn, S. L. Chown, A. Clarke, S. Gaston, P. H. Warren, T. J. Webb and F. I. Woodward for generous discussion and comments, and J. J. D. Greenwood and the British Trust for Ornithology, D. Griffiths, J. T. Kerr, J. J. Lennon, E. M. O'Brien, B. D. Patterson and R. J. Whittaker for kindly providing data. K.J.G. is a Royal Society University Research Fellow.

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Correspondence to Kevin J. Gaston.

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Gaston, K. Global patterns in biodiversity. Nature 405, 220–227 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/35012228

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