Weighing the Evidence for the Abundant-Center Hypothesis

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Tad A. Dallas
Luca Santini
Robin Decker
Alan Hastings

Abstract

The abundant-center hypothesis posits that species density should be highest in the center of the geographic range or climatic niche of a species, based on the idea that the center of either will be the area with the highest demographic performance (e.g., greater fecundity, survival, or carrying capacity). While intuitive, current support for the hypothesis is quite mixed. Here, we discuss the current state of the abundant-center hypothesis, highlighting the relatively low level of support for the relationship. We then discuss the potential reasons for this lack of empirical support, emphasizing the inherent ecological complexity which may prevent the observation of the abundant-center in natural systems. This includes the role of non-equilibrial population dynamics, species interactions, landscape structure, and dispersal processes, as well as variable data quality and inconsistent methodology. The incorporation of this complexity into studies of the distribution of species densities in geographic or niche space may underlie the limited empirical support for the abundant-center hypothesis. We end by discussing potentially fruitful research avenues. Most notably, we highlight the need for theoretical development and controlled experimental testing of the abundant-center hypothesis.

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Articles (peer-reviewed)