Environmental filtering and taxonomic relatedness underlie the species richness–evenness relationship

Sophia I. Passy, Marius Bottin, Janne Soininen, Helmut Hillebrand

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch Articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We examined the relationship between species richness (S) and evenness (J) within a novel, community assembly framework. We hypothesized that environmental stress leads to filtering (increasing the proportional abundance of tolerant species) and taxonomic dispersion (decreasing the number of species within genera and families). Environmental filtering would cause a decline in S by eliminating some stress-sensitive species and a reduction of J by allowing only tolerant species to maintain large populations. Taxonomic relatedness may influence both S and J by controlling the nature of interspecific interactions—positive under taxonomic dispersion versus negative under taxonomic clustering. Therefore, the S–J relationship may be a product of environmental filtering and taxonomic relatedness. We tested this framework with redundancy analyses and structural equation models using continental stream diatom and fish data. We confirmed that (i) environmental stress, defined by watershed forest cover, slope, and temperature, caused filtering (lower sensitive:tolerant species abundance ratios) and taxonomic dispersion (elevated genus:species richness and family:species richness ratios); (ii) S and J, which declined with filtering and taxonomic dispersion, exhibited a positive relationship; and (iii) the role of filtering on J was pronounced only under stressful conditions, while taxonomic dispersion remained an important predictor of J across stressful and favorable environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-253
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science


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