A novel genealogical approach to neutral biodiversity theory

R.S. Etienne, H. Olff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

114 Citations (Scopus)


Current neutral theory in community ecology views local biodiversity as a result of the interplay between speciation, extinction and immigration. Simulations and a mean-field approximation have been used to study this neutral theory. As simulations have limitations of convergence and the mean-field approximation ignores dependencies between species' abundances when applied to species-abundance data, there is still no final conclusion whether the neutral theory or the traditional lognormal model describes community structure best. We present a novel analytical framework, based on the genealogy of individuals in the local community, to overcome the problems of previous approaches, and show, using Bayesian statistics, that the lognormal model provides a slightly better fit to the species-abundance distribution of a much-discussed tropical tree community. A key feature of our approach is that it shows the tight link between genetic and species diversity, which creates important perspectives to future integration of evolutionary and community ecological theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-175
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • species-abundance
  • sampling theory
  • bayes factors
  • communities
  • ecology
  • alleles
  • forest
  • model

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'A novel genealogical approach to neutral biodiversity theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this