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      Species richness at continental scales is dominated by ecological limits.

      1 ,
      The American naturalist
      University of Chicago Press

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          Abstract

          Explaining variation in species richness among provinces and other large geographic regions remains one of the most challenging problems at the intersection of ecology and evolution. Here we argue that empirical evidence supports a model whereby ecological factors associated with resource availability regulate species richness at continental scales. Any large-scale predictive model for biological diversity must explain three robust patterns in the natural world. First, species richness for evolutionary biotas is highly correlated with resource-associated surrogate variables, including area, temperature, and productivity. Second, species richness across epochal timescales is largely stationary in time. Third, the dynamics of diversity exhibit clear and predictable responses to mass extinctions, key innovations, and other perturbations. Collectively, these patterns are readily explained by a model in which species richness is regulated by diversity-dependent feedback mechanisms. We argue that many purported tests of the ecological limits hypothesis, including branching patterns in molecular phylogenies, are inherently weak and distract from these three core patterns. We have much to learn about the complex hierarchy of processes by which local ecological interactions lead to diversity dependence at the continental scale, but the empirical evidence overwhelmingly suggests that they do.

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          Most cited references39

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          A General Hypothesis of Species Diversity

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            Evolution and Ecology of Species Range Limits

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              Energy and Large-Scale Patterns of Animal- and Plant-Species Richness

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Am. Nat.
                The American naturalist
                University of Chicago Press
                1537-5323
                0003-0147
                May 2015
                : 185
                : 5
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Museum of Zoology and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103.
                Article
                10.1086/680850
                25905501
                760d23e5-5609-4282-8382-85c889d2703e

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