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Concept: Common species


Community compensatory trend (CCT) is thought to facilitate persistence of rare species and thus stabilize species composition in tropical forests. However, whether CCT acts over broad geographical ranges is still in question. In this study, we tested for the presence of negative density dependence (NDD) and CCT in three forests along a tropical-temperate gradient. Inventory data were collected from forest communities located in three different latitudinal zones in China. Two widely used methods were used to test for NDD at the community level. The first method considered relationships between the relative abundance ratio and adult abundance. The second method emphasized the effect of adult abundance on abundance of established younger trees. Evidence for NDD acting on different growth forms was tested by using the first method, and the presence of CCT was tested by checking whether adult abundance of rare species affected that of established younger trees less than did abundance of common species. Both analyses indicated that NDD existed in seedling, sapling and pole stages in all three plant communities and that this effect increased with latitude. However, the extent of NDD varied among understory, midstory and canopy trees in the three communities along the gradient. Additionally, despite evidence of NDD for almost all common species, only a portion of rare species showed NDD, supporting the action of CCT in all three communities. So, we conclude that NDD and CCT prevail in the three recruitment stages of the tree communities studied; rare species achieve relative advantage through CCT and thus persist in these communities; CCT clearly facilitates newly established species and maintains tree diversity within communities across our latitudinal gradient.

Concepts: Plant, Forest, Tree, Plant morphology, Rainforest, Trees, Rare species, Common species


Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiments have established that species richness and composition are both important determinants of ecosystem function in an experimental context. Determining whether this result holds for real-world ecosystem services has remained elusive, however, largely due to the lack of analytical methods appropriate for large-scale, associational data. Here, we use a novel analytical approach, the Price equation, to partition the contribution to ecosystem services made by species richness, composition and abundance in four large-scale data sets on crop pollination by native bees. We found that abundance fluctuations of dominant species drove ecosystem service delivery, whereas richness changes were relatively unimportant because they primarily involved rare species that contributed little to function. Thus, the mechanism behind our results was the skewed species-abundance distribution. Our finding that a few common species, not species richness, drive ecosystem service delivery could have broad generality given the ubiquity of skewed species-abundance distributions in nature.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecology, Ecosystem, Ecological economics, Ecosystem services, Systems ecology, Rare species, Common species


We analysed the flora of 46 forest inventory plots (25 m x 100 m) in old growth forests from the Amazonian region to identify the role of environmental (topographic) and spatial variables (obtained using PCNM, Principal Coordinates of Neighbourhood Matrix analysis) for common and rare species. For the analyses, we used multiple partial regression to partition the specific effects of the topographic and spatial variables on the univariate data (standardised richness, total abundance and total biomass) and partial RDA (Redundancy Analysis) to partition these effects on composition (multivariate data) based on incidence, abundance and biomass. The different attributes (richness, abundance, biomass and composition based on incidence, abundance and biomass) used to study this metacommunity responded differently to environmental and spatial processes. Considering standardised richness, total abundance (univariate) and composition based on biomass, the results for common species differed from those obtained for all species. On the other hand, for total biomass (univariate) and for compositions based on incidence and abundance, there was a correspondence between the data obtained for the total community and for common species. Our data also show that in general, environmental and/or spatial components are important to explain the variability in tree communities for total and common species. However, with the exception of the total abundance, the environmental and spatial variables measured were insufficient to explain the attributes of the communities of rare species. These results indicate that predicting the attributes of rare tree species communities based on environmental and spatial variables is a substantial challenge. As the spatial component was relevant for several community attributes, our results demonstrate the importance of using a metacommunities approach when attempting to understand the main ecological processes underlying the diversity of tropical forest communities.

Concepts: Ecology, Multivariate statistics, Endangered species, Forest, Univariate, Conservation, Rare species, Common species


Patterns of species' abundance and occurrence over time and space allow division of species into (i) common species, which are abundant, but have a low diversity, and (ii) rare species, which are far more diverse and less abundant. Understanding the relationships among these two species groups and how they are affected by environmental conditions is a major challenge for ecologists, especially considering the distinction between local environmental factors and regional factors and variations in abundance over the course of the year. In this study, we focused on the long-term relationship between the abundance of rare and common ephemeropterans and abiotic factors on local and regional scales. Our hypotheses are that common species will be affected primarily by regional environmental variables (i), whereas rare species will be influenced more by temporal variation (ii). Together, both local and regional abiotic variables, plus temporal variation, best explained the abundance of the common species, whereas temporal variation was the best predictor of rare species. Considering the theoretical aspects and the empirical evidence, we discuss the results based on the plasticity of the common species and the life cycle of the rare ones. We believe that our findings reinforce the need for the deconstruction of communities for a deeper understanding of their relationships with abiotic variables and, in particular, the specific aspects of these relationships in the context of the different guilds of the community.

Concepts: Scientific method, Species, Endangered species, Empiricism, Interpersonal relationship, Environmental science, Rare species, Common species


Species diversity promotes the delivery of multiple ecosystem functions (multifunctionality). However, the relative functional importance of rare and common species in driving the biodiversity-multifunctionality relationship remains unknown. We studied the relationship between the diversity of rare and common species (according to their local abundances and across nine different trophic groups), and multifunctionality indices derived from 14 ecosystem functions on 150 grasslands across a land-use intensity (LUI) gradient. The diversity of above- and below-ground rare species had opposite effects, with rare above-ground species being associated with high levels of multifunctionality, probably because their effects on different functions did not trade off against each other. Conversely, common species were only related to average, not high, levels of multifunctionality, and their functional effects declined with LUI. Apart from the community-level effects of diversity, we found significant positive associations between the abundance of individual species and multifunctionality in 6% of the species tested. Species-specific functional effects were best predicted by their response to LUI: species that declined in abundance with land use intensification were those associated with higher levels of multifunctionality. Our results highlight the importance of rare species for ecosystem multifunctionality and help guiding future conservation priorities.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Ecology, Endangered species, Grassland, Conservation, Rare species, Common species


Conspecific negative density dependence is thought to maintain diversity by limiting abundances of common species. Yet the extent to which this mechanism can explain patterns of species diversity across environmental gradients is largely unknown. We examined density-dependent recruitment of seedlings and saplings and changes in local species diversity across a soil-resource gradient for 38 woody-plant species in a temperate forest. At both life stages, the strength of negative density dependence increased with resource availability, becoming relatively stronger for rare species during seedling recruitment, but stronger for common species during sapling recruitment. Moreover, negative density dependence appeared to reduce diversity when stronger for rare than common species, but increase diversity when stronger for common species. Our results suggest that negative density dependence is stronger in resource-rich environments and can either decrease or maintain diversity depending on its relative strength among common and rare species.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Evolution, Endangered species, Plant morphology, Monocotyledon, Conservation, Rare species, Common species


This multi-center study compared the analysis of Nocardia spp., including extraction, spectral acquisition, Bruker MALDI-TOF MS (MALDI) identification, and score interpretation using three Nocardia libraries: Bruker, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and The Ohio State University (OSU). A standardized study protocol, 150 Nocardia isolates, and NIH and OSU Nocardia MALDI-TOF MS libraries were distributed to three centers. Following standardized culture, extraction, and MALDI analysis, isolates were identified using score cut-offs of ≥2.0 for species/complex and ≥1.8 for genus level identification, respectively. Isolates yielding a score of <2.0 underwent a single repeat extraction and analysis. Overall score range for all centers was 1.3-2.7 (average 2.2±0.3), with common species generally producing higher average scores than less common ones. Score categorization and isolate identification demonstrated 86% agreement between centers; 118 of 150 isolates were correctly identified to the species/complex-level by all centers. Nine strains (6.0%) were not identified by any center, six (4.0%) of which were uncommon species with limited library representation. Categorical score discrepancy among centers occurred for 21 isolates (14%). There was an overall benefit of 21.2% from repeat extraction of low-scoring isolates, and a center-dependent benefit for duplicate spotting (range 2-8.7%). Finally, supplementation of the Bruker Nocardia MALDI library with both the OSU and NIH libraries increased genus-level and species-level identification by 18.2% and 36.9%, respectively. Overall, this study demonstrates the ability of diverse clinical microbiology laboratories to utilize MALDI-TOF MS for the rapid identification of clinically relevant Nocardia spp. and to implement single-laboratory developed MALDI libraries across institutions.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Demonstration, Genus, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, National Institutes of Health, Nocardia, Library, Common species


One of the few rules in ecology is that communities are composed of many rare and few common species. Trait-based investigations of abundance distributions have generally focused on species-mean trait values with mixed success. Here, using large tropical tree seedling datasets in China and Puerto Rico, we take an alternative approach that considers the magnitude of intraspecific variation in traits and growth as it relates to species abundance. We find that common species are less variable in their traits and growth. Common species also occupy core positions within community trait space indicating that they are finely tuned for the available conditions. Rare species are functionally peripheral and are likely transients struggling for success in the given environment. The work highlights the importance of considering intraspecific variation in trait-based ecology and demonstrates asymmetry in the magnitude of intraspecific variation among species is critical for understanding of how traits are related to abundance.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Endangered species, Plant morphology, Monocotyledon, Germination, Conservation, Rare species, Common species


Biodiversity, including plant species diversity, is threatened worldwide as a result of anthropogenic pressures such as an increase of pollutants and climate change. Rare species in particular are on the verge of becoming extinct. It is still unclear as to why some plant species are rare and others are not. Are they rare due to: intrinsic reasons, dispersal capacity, the effects of management or abiotic circumstances? Habitat preference of rare plant species may play an important role in determining why some species are rare. Based on an extensive data set of soil parameters we investigated if rarity is due to a narrow habitat preference for abiotic soil parameters. For 23 different abiotic soil parameters, of which the most influential were groundwater-table, soil-pH and nutrient-contents, we estimated species responses for common and rare species. Based on the responses per species we calculated the range of occurrence, the range between the 5 and 95 percentile of the response curve giving the habitat preference. Subsequently, we calculated the average response range for common and rare species. In addition, we designed a new graphic in order to provide a better means for presentation of the results. The habitat preferences of rare species for abiotic soil conditions are significantly narrower than for common species. Twenty of the twenty-three abiotic parameters showed on average significantly narrower habitat preferences for rare species than for common species; none of the abiotic parameters showed on average a narrower habitat preference for common species. The results have major implications for the conservation of rare plant species; accordingly management and nature development should be focussed on the maintenance and creation of a broad range of environmental conditions, so that the requirements of rare species are met. The conservation of (abiotic) gradients within ecosystems is particularly important for preserving rare species.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Endangered species, Conservation, Biodiversity Action Plan, Threatened species, Rare species, Common species