Relaxing the zero-sum assumption in neutral biodiversity theory

B. Haegeman, R.S. Etienne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The zero-sum assumption is one of the ingredients of the standard neutral model of biodiversity by Hubbell. It states that the community is saturated all the time, which in this model means that the total number of individuals in the community is constant over time, and therefore introduces a coupling between species abundances. It was shown recently that a neutral model with independent species, and thus without any coupling between species abundances, has the same sampling formula (given a fixed number of individuals in the sample) as the standard model [Etienne, R.S., Alonso, D., McKane, A.J., 2007. The zero-sum assumption in neutral biodiversity theory. J. Theor. Biol. 248, 522¿536]. The equilibria of both models are therefore equivalent from a practical point of view. Here we show that this equivalence can be extended to a class of neutral models with density-dependence on the community-level. This result can be interpreted as robustness of the model, i.e. insensitivity of the model to the precise interaction of the species in a neutral community. It can also be interpreted as a lack of resolution, as different mechanisms of interactions between neutral species cannot be distinguished using only a single snapshot of species abundance data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-294
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • species-abundance
  • sampling theory
  • alleles


Dive into the research topics of 'Relaxing the zero-sum assumption in neutral biodiversity theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this