A general framework for neutral models of community dynamics

Omri Allouche*, Ronen Kadmon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Neutral models of community dynamics are a powerful tool for ecological research, but their applications are currently limited to unrealistically simple types of dynamics and ignore much of the complexity that characterize natural ecosystems. Here, we present a new analytical framework for neutral models that unifies existing models of neutral communities and extends the applicability of existing models to a much wider spectrum of ecological phenomena. The new framework extends the concept of neutrality to fitness equivalence and in spite of its simplicity explains a wide spectrum of empirical patterns of species diversity including positive, negative and unimodal productivity-diversity relationships; gradual and highly delayed declines in species diversity with habitat loss; and positive and negative responses of species diversity to habitat heterogeneity. Surprisingly, the abundance distribution in all of these cases is given by the dispersal limited multinomial (DLM), the abundance distribution in Hubbell's zero-sum model, showing DLM's robustness and demonstrating that it cannot be used to infer the underlying community dynamics. These results support the hypothesis that ecological communities are regulated by a limited set of fundamental mechanisms much simpler than could be expected from their immense complexity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1287-1297
Number of pages11
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Based model
  • History trade
  • Individual
  • Interspecific competition
  • Island biogeography
  • Life
  • Null models
  • Offs
  • Patch occupancy theory
  • Productivity-diversity relationship
  • Species abundance distribution
  • Unified neutral theory of biodiversity


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