Density-dependent speciation alters the structure and dynamics of neutral communities

Shaopeng Wang, Anping Chen, Stephen Wilson Pacala, Jingyun Fang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The neutral theory of biodiversity (NTB) provides an individual-based modeling framework to study eco-evolutionary dynamics. Previous NTB models usually assumed the same per capita rate of speciation across lineages. However, population dynamics may induce macroevolutionary feedbacks that can result in variable per capita speciation rates across lineages. In this paper, with analytical and simulation approaches, we explore how different scenarios of density-dependent speciation may impact the diversity and phylogenetic patterns of neutral communities, and compare the results to predictions of the original NTB model with an invariant speciation rate. Our results show that positive per capita speciation rate-abundance relationships could result in higher species richness and evenness, enhanced stability (evidenced by higher post-disturbance recovery rates and lower temporal variability in species diversity), and higher imbalance in phylogenetic trees. The opposite patterns are predicted when per capita speciation rates decrease with abundance. Particularly, strong negative speciation rate-abundance relationships can generate a positive correlation between phylogenetic age and abundance, which has been observed in Panamanian tree species. Our findings demonstrate the importance of eco-evolutionary feedbacks for understanding long-term diversity and phylogenetic patterns in ecological communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-134
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - May 7 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Applied Mathematics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation


  • Eco-evolutionary dynamics
  • Neutral theory
  • Phylogeny
  • Species abundance distribution


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