Community Ecology

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 39–47 | Cite as

Scale dependence of the beta diversity-scale relationship

  • Y. Zhang
  • K. MaEmail author
  • M. Anand
  • W. Ye
  • B. Fu


Alpha, beta, and gamma diversity are three fundamental biodiversity components in ecology, but most studies focus only on the scale issues of the alpha or gamma diversity component. The beta diversity component, which incorporates both alpha and gamma diversity components, is ideal for studying scale issues of diversity. We explore the scale dependency of beta diversity and scale relationship, both theoretically as well as by application to actual data sets. Our results showed that a power law exists for beta diversity-area (spatial grain or spatial extent) relationships, and that the parameters of the power law are dependent on the grain and extent for which the data are defined. Coarse grain size generates a steeper slope (scaling exponent z) with lower values of intercept (c), while a larger extent results in a reverse trend in both parameters. We also found that, for a given grain (with varying extent) or a given extent (with varying grain) the two parameters are themselves related by power laws. These findings are important because they are the first to simultaneously relate the various components of scale and diversity in a unified manner.


Alpha diversity Diversity partitioning Gamma diversity Power law Scaling 



Diameter at Breast Height


Species-area relationship


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2015

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Global Ecological Change Laboratory, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, South China Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina

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