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Ecological Society of America

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The rank-abundance distribution (RAD) represents the manner in which species divide resources. Community-specific division rules that determine resource allocation among species, and thereby the shape of the RAD, have been hypothesized to account for observed stability of local species richness over time. While the shape of the RAD has been well studied, the temporal dynamics of this distribution have received much less attention. Here we assess changes in the shape of the RAD through time in a desert rodent community in Arizona (USA). Because energy use may be more appropriate for studying resource division than abundance, we also evaluate an energetic equivalent of the RAD. Significant, directional trends in the shapes of both distributions are present in this community. These changes are driven by trends in the relative abundances (or energy use) of Ranks 2, 3, and 4, and are significantly correlated with variation in total energy use by the community and with compositional change. Our results suggest that (1) rank-abundance and rank-energy distributions are not static and can change directionally through time, (2) species richness and rank distributions are not necessarily as intimately connected as early studies assumed, and (3) rank-abundance and rank-energy distributions are influenced by both the amount of energy available to the community and species-specific interactions.

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