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Diversity and tectonics: predictions from neutral theory

  • Steven M. Holland (a1)

Numerical simulations of neutral metacommunities are used here to predict the effects of growth and shrinkage of metacommunities, as well as their separation and merging caused by continental collision and rifting and their secondary eustatic effects. Although growth and shrinkage of metacommunities predictably change diversity, separating and merging metacommunities have counterintuitive effects. Separating and merging metacommunities change diversity within the individual areas, especially so for smaller areas, but they cause no change in total diversity of the system, contrary to previous predictions. The response times of metacommunities are likely to be geologically undetectable except for enormously large systems. These models can be used to predict the plate-tectonic effects on the diversity of terrestrial, coastal-marine, deep-marine, and oceanic-island systems. Of these, global and regional coastal-marine systems are the most acutely sensitive to the changes in area and fragmentation caused by plate tectonics. Oceanic-island systems also experience global and regional changes in diversity during supercontinent breakup and assembly, with the global effects driven by the changing length of volcanic arcs, and the regional effects also driven by secondary eustatic changes in shallow-marine area. Although individual terrestrial provinces or continents may experience substantial changes in diversity from rifting and collision, global terrestrial diversity should be unchanged except for the relatively modest contributions caused by the secondary eustatic effects on land area. These changes in diversity may be reinforced or counteracted by the changing latitudinal position of metacommunities.

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