Computational Ecology and Software, 2015, 5(4): 340-353
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Forms and genesis of species abundance distributions

Evans O. Ochiaga, Cang Hui
Theoretical Ecology Group, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Matieland 7602, and African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Muizenberg 7945, South Africa

Received 25 July 2015;Accepted 3 August 2015;Published online 1 December 2015

Species abundance distribution (SAD) is one of the most important metrics in community ecology. SAD curves take a hollow or hyperbolic shape in a histogram plot with many rare species and only a few common species. In general, the shape of SAD is largely log-normally distributed, although the mechanism behind this particular SAD shape still remains elusive. Here, we aim to review four major parametric forms of SAD and three contending mechanisms that could potentially explain this highly skewed form of SAD. The parametric forms reviewed here include log series, negative binomial, lognormal and geometric distributions. The mechanisms reviewed here include the maximum entropy theory of ecology, neutral theory and the theory of proportionate effect.

Keywords maximum entropy;lognormal;neutral theory;proportionate effect;biodiversity.

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