MRE Symonds, CN Johnson (2008) Species richness and evenness in Australian birds.American Naturalist 171: 480-490.

What’s it about?

We looked at the relationship between species richness (number of species at a site) and species evenness (the pattern of relative abundances of those species – an uneven site would consist of many individuals of one species and not many individuals of other species, for example). For Australian birds there is a negative relationship between the two (species rich sites tend to me more uneven, probably because they support great numbers of ‘rare’ species). We also show how aspects of vegetation cover and climate having contrasting effects on both species richness and evenness. The whole thing gets complicated actually….

What’s the story behind it?

When I left Townsville in 2005 and my post-doc with Chris Johnson I had just started work on this question. I had lots of good quality data for about 140 sites across Australia where birds had been intensively surveyed over a period of several years, so we could get really good estimates of species richness at those sites. However, I ran out of time before starting my new post-doc in Melbourne. But the idea didn’t really go away (I thought it was a good one to look at), and with Chris’s encouragement I continued to plug away at it for a couple more years in an on and off fashion, before finally getting around to completing it. I actually think it’s the best paper that I got out of my post-doc at James Cook University.

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