NCEAS Project 12061

Towards a unified theory of biodiversity

  • Andrew P. Allen
  • Jessica L. Green
  • Stephen P. Hubbell
  • Pablo A. Marquet

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group22nd—24th October 2007Participant List  
Working Group21st—23rd May 2008Participant List  

This proposal will support the efforts of an interdisciplinary group of ecologists, physicists and mathematicians to unify three areas of theoretical ecology that have advanced rapidly over the past decade: metabolic scaling theory, neutral biodiversity theory, and spatial macroecology theory. These theories have all yielded quantitative predictions that show striking agreement with patterns observed in nature. Furthermore, all three theories derive predictions based on the same postulate that biodiversity is largely controlled by universal principles and processes that operate at the level of the individual organism, and that therefore transcend species identity. Given this fundamental point of contact among theories, and that each theory focuses on a different axis of ecological complexity (energy, stochasticity, space), considerable progress could be achieved by their integration. This working group will work towards unifying metabolic scaling theory, neutral biodiversity theory, and spatial macroecology. Our goal will not be to summarize research to date, but rather to cross disciplinary boundaries and specializations to develop a prediction-rich synthetic framework for the evolutionary and ecological assembly of biodiversity across multiple spatial and temporal scales. We anticipate a vigorous and systematic attack on the problem by researchers committed to improving their theories by confronting them with data.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Keymer, Juan E.; Fuentes, Miguel A.; Marquet, Pablo A. 2008. Diversity emerging: From competitive exclusion to neutral coexistence in ecosystems. Theoretical Ecology. Vol: 5(3). Pages 457-463. (Online version)
Journal Article O'Dwyer, James; Green, Jessica L. 2010. Field theory for biogeography: A spatially explicit model for predicting patterns of biodiversity. Ecology Letters. Vol: 13. Pages 87-95. (Online version)
Journal Article Ostling, Annette. 2012. Do fitness-equalizing tradeoffs lead to neutral communities?. Theoretical Ecology. Vol: 5. Pages 181-194. (Online version)