Taxonomic Structure: Species Diversity

  • Ivan Valiela
Part of the Springer Advanced Texts in Life Sciences book series (SATLIFE)


Terrestrial ecologists long ago remarked on the richness of the floras and faunas of tropical environments relative to colder climates. The diversification within many specific taxonomic groups is clearly greater in the tropics than in temperate latitudes, both in terrestrial and in marine environments (Fig. 12–1). Low numbers of species are also typical of severe and disturbed habitats. Such observations have spawned an abundant and contentious body of publications that have dealt with three major problems: first, how to quantify the clearly observable differences in diversity, second, how are such differences in taxonomic richness of communities generated and maintained, and third, what do such differences mean ecologically.


Species Richness Coral Reef Great Barrier Reef Rocky Shore Live Coral 
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  1. The choice of the base of logarithm is arbitrary; if base 2 is used, the units will be in bits; if base e is used, the units are bels.Google Scholar
  2. This applies to the sum of predators in the community but it may not be true for all species of predators. For example, the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) feeds preferentially on rarer species of corals, and its feeding thus fosters the growth of common, fastgrowing species. Acanthaster could thus lower species richness (Glynn, 1974, 1976).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Valiela
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Marine Biological LaboratoryBoston University Marine ProgramWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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