, Volume 167, Issue 4, pp 885–888 | Cite as

Commentary: Do we have a consistent terminology for species diversity? The fallacy of true diversity

  • Root Gorelick
Views and Comments


There is no single best index that can be used to answer all questions about species diversity. Entropy-based diversity indices, including Hill’s indices, cannot account for geographical and phylogenetic structure. While a single diversity index arises if we impose several constraints—most notably that gamma diversity be completely decomposed into alpha and beta diversity—there are many ecological questions regarding species diversity for which it is counterproductive, requiring decomposability. Non-decomposable components of gamma diversity may quantify important intrinsic ecological properties, such as resilience or nestedness.


Alpha diversity Beta diversity Gamma diversity Diversity partitioning Hill index 



Thanks to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), with whom I have no conflict of interest, for a Discovery Grant. Thanks to Hanna Tuomisto and an anonymous reviewer for many helpful comments.


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© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and School of Mathematics and StatisticsCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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