A new sampling formula for neutral biodiversity

R.S. Etienne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

192 Citations (Scopus)


The neutral model of biodiversity, proposed by Hubbell (The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2001) to explain the diversity of functionally equivalent species, has been subject of hot debate in community ecology. Whereas Hubbell studied the model mostly by simulations, recently analytical treatments have yielded expressions of the expected number of species of a particular abundance in a local community with dispersal limitation. Moreover, a formula has been offered for the joint likelihood of observing a given species-abundance dataset in a local community with dispersal limitation, but this formula is too complicated to allow practical applications. Here, I present a much simplified expression that can be regarded as an enhanced version of the famous Ewens sampling formula. It can be used in maximum likelihood methods for quick estimation of the model parameters, using all information in the data, and for model comparison. I also show how to rapidly generate examples of species-abundance distributions for a given set of model parameters and how to calculate Simpson's diversity index.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-260
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • recruitment limitation
  • neotropical forest
  • species abundance
  • beta-diversity
  • model
  • alleles

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