The hierarchical continuum concept

The hierarchical continuum concept Abstract. Two general models have been proposed to explain the structure of the plant community: the community‐unit model of Clements and the continuum model of Whittaker and Curtis, the latter based on Gleason's individualistic distribution of species. It is generally assumed that most ecologists now accept the continuum model. Empirical evidence suggests, however, that the continuum in its current form does not fully describe the observed patterns of vegetation along environmental gradients. In this paper, we introduce the hierarchical continuum as a general concept to represent dynamic community structure along regional spatial gradients. The hierarchical continuum is derived from a combination of the individualistic distribution of species, hierarchical assemblage structure, and the core‐satellite species hypothesis. The hierarchical continuum concept predicts that the distribution of species across sites in a region will be polymodal, which reflects hierarchical structure, and that the distribution and abundance of species within and between sites will be spatially and temporally dynamic. Regional distribution of plant species in North American tallgrass prairie, southeastern flood‐plain hardwood forests, northern upland hardwood forests, and boreal forests were either bimodal or polymodal as predicted by the hierarchical continuum concept. Species in tallgrass prairie were spatially and temporally dynamic with an average turnover of 8–9 species per 50 m2 yr1. In addition, the hierarchical continuum concept predicts the potential for fractal (self‐similar) patterns of community structure, and provides a framework for testable hypotheses concerning species distributions along environmental gradients. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Vegetation Science Wiley

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
1993 IAVS ‐ the International Association of Vegetation Science
ISSN
1100-9233
eISSN
1654-1103
DOI
10.2307/3236099
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract. Two general models have been proposed to explain the structure of the plant community: the community‐unit model of Clements and the continuum model of Whittaker and Curtis, the latter based on Gleason's individualistic distribution of species. It is generally assumed that most ecologists now accept the continuum model. Empirical evidence suggests, however, that the continuum in its current form does not fully describe the observed patterns of vegetation along environmental gradients. In this paper, we introduce the hierarchical continuum as a general concept to represent dynamic community structure along regional spatial gradients. The hierarchical continuum is derived from a combination of the individualistic distribution of species, hierarchical assemblage structure, and the core‐satellite species hypothesis. The hierarchical continuum concept predicts that the distribution of species across sites in a region will be polymodal, which reflects hierarchical structure, and that the distribution and abundance of species within and between sites will be spatially and temporally dynamic. Regional distribution of plant species in North American tallgrass prairie, southeastern flood‐plain hardwood forests, northern upland hardwood forests, and boreal forests were either bimodal or polymodal as predicted by the hierarchical continuum concept. Species in tallgrass prairie were spatially and temporally dynamic with an average turnover of 8–9 species per 50 m2 yr1. In addition, the hierarchical continuum concept predicts the potential for fractal (self‐similar) patterns of community structure, and provides a framework for testable hypotheses concerning species distributions along environmental gradients.

Journal

Journal of Vegetation ScienceWiley

Published: Apr 1, 1993

References

  • Vegetation as a component of a non‐nested hierarchy: a conceptual model
    Acker, Acker
  • The confusion between scale‐defined levels and conventional levels of organization in ecology
    Allen, Allen; Hoekstra, Hoekstra
  • Continuum concept, ordination methods, and niche theory
    Austin, Austin
  • Single‐species metapopulation dynamics: concepts, models and observations
    Hanski, Hanski
  • Small‐scale variability as a mechanism for large‐scale stability in mountain grasslands
    Herben, Herben; Krahulec, Krahulec; Hadincová, Hadincová; Skálová, Skálová
  • Species turnover and diversity patterns along an evergreen broad‐leaved forest coenocline
    Itow, Itow
  • Fuzzy systems vegetation theory
    Roberts, Roberts
  • Small‐scale plant species turnover in a limestone grassland: the carousel model and some comments on the niche concept
    Maarel, Maarel; Sykes, Sykes
  • Population responses to patchy environments
    Wiens, Wiens

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