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Community Composition and Nested-Subset Analyses: Basic Descriptors for Community Ecology
Wade B. Worthen
Vol. 76, No. 3 (Sep., 1996), pp. 417-426
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3546335
Page Count: 10
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Three primary descriptors of community structure are the number, identities (composition), and abundances of species therein. Over the past 35 years, most attention has focused on relationships involving number (species-area and species-energy relationships) or abundance distributions (broken-stick, geometric, log-normal, core-satellite, etc.). Composition patterns have been underemphasized, even though several tools for addressing particular non-random patterns in species composition are available. One non-random pattern in community composition is nested subset structure. A community has a nested subset structure if the species found in depauperate replicates are also found in progressively more species-rich assemblages. In this review, the problems of failing to consider composition patterns like nestedness are described, using species-area relationships and the SLOSS debate (single large or several small reserves) as an example. In addition, nestedness analyses are promoted as: 1) important descriptive tools for determining whether a community has this common non-random pattern of species composition, and 2) as important investigative tools for suggesting mechanisms potentially structuring a community.
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