We present an analytical model that unifies two of the most influential theories in community ecology, namely, island biogeography and niche theory. Our model captures the main elements of both theories by incorporating the combined effects of area, isolation, stochastic colonization and extinction processes, habitat heterogeneity, and niche partitioning in a unified, demographically based framework. While classical niche theory predicts a positive relationship between species richness and habitat heterogeneity, our unified model demonstrates that area limitation and dispersal limitation (the main elements of island biogeography) may create unimodal and even negative relationships between species richness and habitat heterogeneity. We attribute this finding to the fact that increasing heterogeneity increases the potential number of species that may exist in a given area (as predicted by niche theory) but simultaneously reduces the amount of suitable area available for each species and, thus, increases the likelihood of stochastic extinction. Area limitation, dispersal limitation, and low reproduction rates intensify the latter effect by increasing the likelihood of stochastic extinction. These analytical results demonstrate that the integration of island biogeography and niche theory provides new insights about the mechanisms that regulate the diversity of ecological communities and generates unexpected predictions that could not be attained from any single theory.
- Colonization-extinction processes
- Community dynamics
- Neutral theory of biodiversity
- Species diversity
- Species-area relationship