A constant ratio between species richnesses estimated at the local and regional scale is interpreted as a proof of quasi-neutral unsaturated communities. Based on Zobel's model of plant community (ZOBEL, Folia Geobot. 36: 3-8, 2001) we tested the methodology of the species-pool concept by comparing the saturated and unsaturated communities generated by spatially-explicit mechanistic simulations with known assembly rules. Tests show that local-regional species plots can be applied to distinguish saturated vs. unsaturated communities, however, the outcome of tests, i.e. the relationship between local and regional richness depends on the size of the areas compared. Independently from the mechanisms controlling diversity, trivial saturation will appear if one of the scales is either too small or too broad because species-area curves are bound at these extreme scales. Similarly, trivial unsaturation will appear if the two scales compared are close to each other. The application of species-area curves is useful because they help to find scales for non-trivial relationships. Field tests reporting quasi-neutrality and unsaturated plant communities were performed at the intermediate scales of the corresponding species-area curves, and they were estimated from heterogeneous samples. Therefore, this field evidence might be biased by scaling artefacts. We propose to reanalyze the field evidence with solid scaling conventions and to restrict the concept of quasi-neutrality to subordinated functional groups based on the following hypotheses: (1) neutrality will appear within subordinated guilds as a consequence of the hierarchical structure of plant communities; (2) the lower a guild in the hierarchy the higher neutrality of within-layer processes detected; (3) quasi-neutrality found at the community level is not a proof of community-level neutrality but it is due to the higher number of subordinated species in the samples.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science