Spatial scaling of species richness–productivity relationships for local communities: analytical results from a neutral model

Abstract

The relationship between species richness and productivity changes with spatial scale, but the way in which it changes and the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We address this critical knowledge gap using a new mechanistic model of the spatial scaling of species richness–productivity (SP) relationships for a local community. Our model is neutral and hence assumes that species dynamics are driven by dispersal limitation and demographic stochasticity. We showed analytically that SP relationships predicted by our model are typically unimodal. Consistent with previous simulation-based studies, the positive phase of our unimodal SP relationship was driven by a sampling effect (“more-individuals effect”) whereas the negative phase was driven by relatively more propagules being of local as opposed to external origin (“dilution effect”). Our main novel finding related to the spatial scaling of the unimodal SP relationship: the peak shifted to the left with increasing spatial scale, such that the decreasing phase covered a greater range of productivity. This was driven by an increase in the strength of the dilution effect relative to the more-individuals effect, reflecting higher area/perimeter ratios at larger spatial scales. Our theoretical predictions are qualitatively consistent with the spatial scaling of SP relationships documented for trees in localized forest communities across the world.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Matthew Luskin (Nanyang Technological University) and members of Chisholm Lab (National University of Singapore) for comments on the manuscript.

Funding

This work was supported by a grant to RAC from the James S. McDonnell Foundation (#220020470) and grants to SX from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (#41830321, 31870412, 31470492, 31670435).

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Correspondence to Ryan A. Chisholm.

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Fung, T., Xiao, S. & Chisholm, R.A. Spatial scaling of species richness–productivity relationships for local communities: analytical results from a neutral model. Theor Ecol 13, 93–103 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12080-019-0431-6

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Neutral model
  • Productivity
  • Spatial grain
  • Species richness