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Commonness and Rarity: Theory and Application of a New Model to Mediterranean Montane Grasslands

José M. Rey Benayas, Universidad de Alcala
Samuel M Scheiner, National Science Foundation
Manuel García Sánchez-Colomer
Catherine Levassor


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We examined patterns of commonness and rarity among plant species in montane wet grasslands of Iberia. This examination is set within two contexts. First, we expanded on an earlier scheme for classifying species as common or rare by adding a fourth criterion, the ability of that species to occupy a larger or smaller fraction of its potential suitable habitats, i.e., habitat occupancy. Second, we explicated two theories, the superior organism theory and the generalist/specialist trade-off theory. The data consisted of 232 species distributed among 92 plots. The species were measured for mean local abundance, size of environmental volume occupied, percentage of volume occupied, range within Iberia, and range in Europe and the Mediterranean basin. In general, all measures were positively correlated, in agreement with the superior organism theory. However, specialist species were also found. Thus, patterns of commonness and rarity may be due to a combination of mechanisms. Analyses such as ours can also be used as a first step in identifying habitats and species that may be endangered.

Key words

commonness, endangered species, generalist/specialist trade-off, geographic range, habitat occupancy, habitat specificity, Iberia, local abundance, montane grasslands, rarity, superior organism theory.

Copyright © 1999 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087