The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography (MPB-32)

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Princeton University Press, Apr 29, 2001 - Science - 375 pages

Despite its supreme importance and the threat of its global crash, biodiversity remains poorly understood both empirically and theoretically. This ambitious book presents a new, general neutral theory to explain the origin, maintenance, and loss of biodiversity in a biogeographic context.

Until now biogeography (the study of the geographic distribution of species) and biodiversity (the study of species richness and relative species abundance) have had largely disjunct intellectual histories. In this book, Stephen Hubbell develops a formal mathematical theory that unifies these two fields. When a speciation process is incorporated into Robert H. MacArthur and Edward O. Wilson's now classical theory of island biogeography, the generalized theory predicts the existence of a universal, dimensionless biodiversity number. In the theory, this fundamental biodiversity number, together with the migration or dispersal rate, completely determines the steady-state distribution of species richness and relative species abundance on local to large geographic spatial scales and short-term to evolutionary time scales.

Although neutral, Hubbell's theory is nevertheless able to generate many nonobvious, testable, and remarkably accurate quantitative predictions about biodiversity and biogeography. In many ways Hubbell's theory is the ecological analog to the neutral theory of genetic drift in genetics. The unified neutral theory of biogeography and biodiversity should stimulate research in new theoretical and empirical directions by ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and biogeographers.


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In this monograph, the author shows that it is possible to mathematically combine ecology with evolutionary biology to construct a quantitative theory of biodiversity, which he calls the unified ... Read full review


MacArthur and Wilsons Radical Theory
On Current Theories of Relative Species Abundance
Dynamical Models of the Relative Abundance of Species
Local Community Dynamics under Ecological Drift
Metacommunity Dynamics and the Unified Theory
The Unified Neutral Theory and Dynamical SpeciesArea Relationships
Metapopulations and Biodiversity on the Metacommunity Landscape
Speciation Phylogeny and the Evolution of Metacommunity Biodiversity
Sampling Parameter Estimation and the Generality of the Unified Theory
Reconciling DispersalAssembly and NicheAssembly Theories

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About the author (2001)

Stephen P. Hubbell is Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Georgia and Staff Scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He is the author of more than one hundred papers in tropical plant ecology, theoretical ecology, and plant-animal interactions. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Pew Scholar Award in Conservation and the Environment. He is Chairman of the National Council for Science and the Environment (formerly the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment) and the inventor of Extinction: The Game of Ecology.

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