Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Universal species–area and endemics–area relationships at continental scales

Subjects

Abstract

Despite the broad conceptual and applied relevance of how the number of species or endemics changes with area (the species–area and endemics–area relationships (SAR and EAR)), our understanding of universality and pervasiveness of these patterns across taxa and regions has remained limited. The SAR has traditionally been approximated by a power law1, but recent theories predict a triphasic SAR in logarithmic space, characterized by steeper increases in species richness at both small and large spatial scales2,3,4,5,6. Here we uncover such universally upward accelerating SARs for amphibians, birds and mammals across the world’s major landmasses. Although apparently taxon-specific and continent-specific, all curves collapse into one universal function after the area is rescaled by using the mean range sizes of taxa within continents. In addition, all EARs approximately follow a power law with a slope close to 1, indicating that for most spatial scales there is roughly proportional species extinction with area loss. These patterns can be predicted by a simulation model based on the random placement of contiguous ranges within a domain. The universality of SARs and EARs after rescaling implies that both total and endemic species richness within an area, and also their rate of change with area, can be estimated by using only the knowledge of mean geographic range size in the region and mean species richness at one spatial scale.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: SARs and EARs across five continents and three vertebrate classes.
Figure 2: SARs and EARs after rescaling.
Figure 3: Rescaled SARs and EARs predicted by four simulation models of range placement.

References

  1. Rosenzweig, M. L. Species Diversity in Space and Time (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  2. Allen, A. P. & White, E. P. Effects of range size on species–area relationships. Evol. Ecol. Res. 5, 493–499 (2003)

    Google Scholar 

  3. McGill, B. & Collins, C. A unified theory for macroecology based on spatial patterns of abundance. Evol. Ecol. Res. 5, 469–492 (2003)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Hubbell, S. P. The Unified Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography (Princeton Univ. Press, 2001)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Rosindell, J. & Cornell, S. J. Species–area relationships from a spatially explicit neutral model in an infinite landscape. Ecol. Lett. 10, 586–595 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. O’Dwyer, J. P. & Green, J. L. Field theory for biogeography: a spatially explicit model for predicting patterns of biodiversity. Ecol. Lett. 13, 87–95 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Lawton, J. H., May, R., eds. Extinction Rates (Oxford Univ. Press, 1995)

  8. Pimm, S. L. & Raven, P. Biodiversity: extinction by numbers. Nature 403, 843–845 (2000)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. He, F. & Hubbell, S. P. Species–area relationships always overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss. Nature 473, 368–371 (2011)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Smith, A. B. Caution with curves: caveats for using the species–area relationship in conservation. Biol. Conserv. 143, 555–564 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Drakare, S., Lennon, J. J. & Hillebrand, H. The imprint of the geographical, evolutionary and ecological context on species–area relationships. Ecol. Lett. 9, 215–227 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Connor, E. F. & McCoy, E. D. The statistics and biology of the species–area relationship. Am. Nat. 113, 791–833 (1979)

    Article  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  13. Harte, J., Smith, A. B. & Storch, D. Biodiversity scales from plots to biomes with a universal species–area curve. Ecol. Lett. 12, 789–797 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Šizling, A. L., Kunin, W. E., Šizlingová, E., Reif, J. & Storch, D. Between geometry and biology: the problem of universality of the species–area relationship. Am. Nat. 178, 602–611 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Kinzig, A. P. & Harte, J. Implications of endemics–area relationships for estimates of species extinctions. Ecology 81, 3305–3311 (2000)

    Google Scholar 

  16. Pereira, H. M., Borda-de-Água, L. & Martins, I. S. Geometry and scale in species–area relationships. Nature 482, E3–E4 (2012)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Green, J. L. & Ostling, A. Endemics–area relationships: the influence of species dominance and spatial aggregation. Ecology 84, 3090–3097 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Belmaker, J. & Jetz, W. Cross-scale variation in species richness–environment associations. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 20, 464–474 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Hurlbert, A. H. & Jetz, W. Species richness, hotspots, and the scale dependence of range maps in ecology and conservation. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 13384–13389 (2007)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Storch, D. et al. Energy, range dynamics and global species richness patterns: reconciling mid-domain effects and environmental determinants of avian diversity. Ecol. Lett. 9, 1308–1320 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Buckley, L. B. & Jetz, W. Environmental and historical constraints on global patterns of amphibian richness. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 274, 1167–1173 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Storch, D. et al. The quest for a null model for macroecological patterns: geometry of species distributions at multiple spatial scales. Ecol. Lett. 11, 771–784 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Losos, J. B. & Schluter, D. Analysis of an evolutionary species–area relationship. Nature 408, 847–850 (2000)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Ricklefs, R. E. A comprehensive framework for global patterns in biodiversity. Ecol. Lett. 7, 1–15 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. McGill, B. J. Towards a unification of unified theories of biodiversity. Ecol. Lett. 13, 627–642 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Harte, J. & Kinzig, A. P. On the implications of species–area relationships for endemism, spatial turnover, and food web patterns. Oikos 80, 417–427 (1997)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Arita, H. T. & Rodríguez, P. Geographic range, turnover rate and the scaling of species diversity. Ecography 25, 541–550 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Scheiner, S. M. Six types of species–area curves. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 12, 441–447 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Leitner, W. A. & Rosenzweig, M. L. Nested species–area curves and stochastic sampling: a new theory. Oikos 79, 503–512 (1997)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Colwell, R. K. & Lees, D. C. The mid-domain effect: geometric constraints on the geography of species richness. Trends Ecol. Evol. 15, 70–76 (2000)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. Lennon, J. J., Koleff, P., Greenwood, J. J. D. & Gaston, K. J. The geographical structure of British bird distributions: diversity, spatial turnover and scale. J. Anim. Ecol. 70, 966–979 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Nekola, J. C. & White, P. S. The distance decay of similarity in biogeography and ecology. J. Biogeogr. 26, 867–878 (1999)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Kunin, W. E. Sample shape, spatial scale and species counts: implications for reserve design. Biol. Conserv. 82, 369–377 (1997)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  34. Šizling, A. L. & Storch, D. Power-law species–area relationships and self-similar species distributions within finite areas. Ecol. Lett. 7, 60–68 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank J. Belmaker, K. Mertes-Schwartz, C. Sheard and D. Rosauer for useful comments. The study was supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (P505/11/2387), the Czech Ministry of Education (MSM0021620845) and the EU FP7 SCALES project (‘Securing the Conservation of biodiversity across Administrative Levels and spatial, temporal and Ecological Scales’; project No. 26852). W.J. acknowledges support from National Science Foundation grants DBI 0960550 and DEB 1026764, and NASA Biodiversity Program grant number NNX11AP72G.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

D.S. initiated the research. D.S., P.K. and W.J. developed the ideas, methods and concepts, and wrote the manuscript. W.J. adjusted and provided the data. P.K. performed the analyses and simulations.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David Storch.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains a Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary Tables 1-2 and Supplementary Figures 1-15. (PDF 1864 kb)

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Storch, D., Keil, P. & Jetz, W. Universal species–area and endemics–area relationships at continental scales. Nature 488, 78–81 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11226

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11226

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing