Telling the likes apart: neutral and null models in ecology contrasted in new key review

One particularly successful but controversial approach has been to apply the neutral model, a body of theory trying to explain community patterns by modeling speciation, dispersal, and extinction of species as random, stochastic events.

A new key review in the journal Ecography by Gotelli and McGill now provides an excellent overview of the current status of neutral models, ranging from their origins in statistical theory, clarifying their role relative to an older body of ecological models, null models, and on towards demonstrating how they can be used to test for other mechanisms (such as species interactions) that might structure communities.

The paper clarifies the similarities and differences of null and neutral models, and also demonstrates parallels in the development of theory in ecology and in evolution.

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This complex theme deals primarily with interactions between organisms and the environmental factors that impact them, but to a greater extent between individual inanimate environmental factors.

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