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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

Missing the rarest: is the positive interspecific abundance-distribution relationship a truly general macroecological pattern?

Komonen, Atte; Paivinen, Jussi; Kotiaho, Janne S.


Lepidopterists have long acknowledged that many uncommon butterfly species can be extremely abundant in suitable locations. If this is generally true, it contradicts the general macroecological pattern of the positive interspecific relationship between abundance and distribution, i.e. locally abundant species are often geographically more widespread than locally rare species. Indeed, a negative abundance-distribution relationship has been documented for butterflies in Finland. Here we show, using the Finnish butterflies as an example, that a positive abundance-distribution relationship results if the geographically restricted species are missed, as may be the case in studies based on random or restricted sampling protocols, or in studies that are conducted over small spatial scales. In our case, the abundance-distribution relationship becomes negative when approximately 70 per cent of the species are included. This observation suggests that the abundance distribution relationship may in fact not be linear over the entire range of distributions. This intriguing possibility combined with some taxonomic biases in the literature may undermine the generalization that for a given taxonomic assemblage there is a positive interspecific relationship between local abundance and regional distribution.


abundance-distribution relationship; Lepidoptera; macroecology

Published in

Biology Letters
2009, Volume: 5, number: 4, pages: 492-494

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