Causality between abundance and diversity is weak for wintering migratory waterbirds

Lei Guan, Yifei Jia, Neil Saintilan, Yuyu Wang, Guanhua Liu, Guangchun Lei*, Li Wen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    The species-area relationship, which is closely linked with the more general species-energy theory, is one of the most well-known patterns in geographical ecology, but the underlying causes remain contentious. The more individuals hypothesis (MIH) articulates a causal path from resource availability to population abundance to species richness. The MIH has been tested with a range of taxa including plants, invertebrates and land birds but never with migratory waterbirds. Using multiyear simultaneous survey data of wintering waterbirds in 10 lakes at Poyang Lake, China, and remotely sensed habitat condition measurements, we applied structural equation modelling (SEM) to test three causal paths: (A) good habitat conditions (e.g. habitat availability and heterogeneity) attract more species (high richness); (B) habitat conditions promote abundance (more individuals); and (C) habitat conditions promote abundance, which in turn increases richness. We also modelled responses of species richness and abundance to habitat conditions using generalised additive mixed modelling (GAMM) to assess their co-variation. While our analysis confirmed the first two paths, we found no support for the third, which is the central postulate of the MIH. In addition, in agreement with GAMM, SEM indicated that species richness was more closely related to habitat quality than to abundance. Our findings suggest that wintering waterbird species richness and abundance are two intrinsic community indices that covary with environmental variables.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)206-218
    Number of pages13
    JournalFreshwater Biology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


    Dive into the research topics of 'Causality between abundance and diversity is weak for wintering migratory waterbirds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this