Heterogeneity–diversity relationships in sessile organisms: a unified framework

Eyal Ben-Hur*, Ronen Kadmon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The hypothesis that environmental heterogeneity promotes species richness by increasing opportunities for niche partitioning is a fundamental paradigm in ecology. However, recent studies suggest that heterogeneity–diversity relationships (HDR) are more complex than expected from this niche-based perspective, and often show a decrease in richness at high levels of heterogeneity. These findings have motivated ecologists to propose new mechanisms that may explain such deviations. Here we provide an overview of currently recognised mechanisms affecting the shape of HDRs and present a conceptual model that integrates all previously proposed mechanisms within a unified framework. We also translate the proposed framework into an explicit community dynamic model and use the model as a tool for generating testable predictions concerning how landscape properties interact with species traits in determining the shape of HDRs. Our main finding is that, despite the enormous complexity of such interactions, the predicted HDRs are rather simple, ranging from positive to unimodal patterns in a highly consistent and predictable manner.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)193-207
Number of pages15
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS


  • Compositional vs. configurational heterogeneity
  • conceptual model
  • dispersal
  • environmental heterogeneity
  • fragmentation
  • niche width
  • species richness


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