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A major goal of community ecology is to explain patterns in the relative abundance of species (MacArthur 1972, May 1975 Grubb et al. 1982). This problem can be divided into two distinct questions: 1. what determines the shape of the distribution curve of species abundances, and 2. why are particular species typically rare and others typically common (Rabinowitz 1981). A number of studies of herbaceous plant communities have addressed themselves to the second of these questions in an attempt to identify a set of general attributes that determine commonness and rarity (Grime 1979, Gaudet and Keddy 1988, Goldberg 1990, Grace 1990). Recently, a consensus seems to have begun to emerge that species form competitive hierarchies, and that a species' position in this hierarchy largely determines its relative abundance (Roush and Radosevich 1985 Mitchley and Grubb 1986, Miller and Werner 1987, Keddy 1990).
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