Species in the tail of rank-abundance curves

Brad R. Murray*, Barbara L. Rice, David A. Keith, Peter J. Myerscough, Jocelyn Howell, Alex G. Floyd, Kevin Mills, Mark Westoby

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    59 Citations (Scopus)


    At focal sites within dry sclerophyll woodland and temperate rain forest, species were identified that were of low local abundance and hence in the tail of the rank-abundance curve. We then asked the question: What proportion of tail species within a given community are constitutive members of the tail everywhere throughout their geographical range, versus what proportion are found as substantially more abundant somewhere within their range? Out of 55 tail species identified from dry sclerophyll woodland and 116 tail species identified from temperate rain forest, 91% and 95%, respectively, were significantly more abundant at other locations ('somewhere-abundant' species), versus 9% and 5% 'everywhere-sparse' species. Among eight attributes in dry sclerophyll woodland and nine attributes in temperate rain forest compared between somewhere-abundant and everywhere-sparse species, none discriminated consistently between the two groups of species. The size and dispersal morphology of seeds, flowering and fruiting durations and seasons, regeneration strategy after fire, size of geographical ranges, maximum plant height, and size class revealed no consistent distinctions. For the small minority of species that are everywhere-sparse, some general explanation may exist as to why they are in the tail of rank-abundance curves, though none was located among the attributes compared in this paper. For the majority of tail species that are somewhere-abundant, any explanation as to why they are in the tail will need to account for different outcomes in different places.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1806-1816
    Number of pages11
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 1999


    • abundance
    • geographical range
    • macroecology
    • plants
    • rain forest
    • rank-abundance curve
    • sclerophyll woodland


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