Scaling issues of neutral theory reveal violations of ecological equivalence for dominant Amazonian tree species

Edwin Pos, Juan Ernesto Guevara, Jean François Molino, Daniel Sabatier, Olaf S. Bánki, Nigel C.A. Pitman, Hugo F. Mogollón, Roosevelt García-Villacorta, David Neill, Oliver L. Phillips, Carlos Cerón, Marcos Ríos Paredes, Percy Núñez Vargas, Nállarett Dávila, Anthony Di Fiore, Gonzalo Rivas-Torres, Raquel Thomas-Caesar, Corine Vriesendorp, Kenneth R. Young, Milton TiradoOphelia Wang, Rodrigo Sierra, Italo Mesones, Roderick Zagt, Rodolfo Vasquez, Manuel A. Ahuite Reategui, Walter Palacios Cuenca, Elvis H. Valderrama Sandoval, Hans ter Steege

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Neutral models are often used as null models, testing the relative importance of niche versus neutral processes in shaping diversity. Most versions, however, focus only on regional scale predictions and neglect local level contributions. Recently, a new formulation of spatial neutral theory was published showing an incompatibility between regional and local scale fits where especially the number of rare species was dramatically under-predicted. Using a forward in time semi-spatially explicit neutral model and a unique large-scale Amazonian tree inventory data set, we show that neutral theory not only underestimates the number of rare species but also fails in predicting the excessive dominance of species on both regional and local levels. We show that although there are clear relationships between species composition, spatial and environmental distances, there is also a clear differentiation between species able to attain dominance with and without restriction to specific habitats. We conclude therefore that the apparent dominance of these species is real, and that their excessive abundance can be attributed to fitness differences in different ways, a clear violation of the ecological equivalence assumption of neutral theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-1082
Number of pages11
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Amazon
  • betadiversity
  • neutral theory
  • species composition


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