The Roles of Climate Variability and Habitat Heterogeneity in Structuring a Forested System: An Integrated Accumulation Function of Species Richness

R. Talbot Trotter, Thomas G Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


As forested systems are impacted by both natural and anthropogenic factors such as climate change, the biodiversity supported by those forests is likely to change. Quantifying that change, however, remains a difficult task due to variations in the sizes and conditions of forested systems. Species accumulation curves are a commonly used tool to scale estimates of species richness and provide an avenue for comparing biodiversity among habitats through rarefaction. However, we found that the ranked biodiversity among forested systems depends on the sample unit used, and there is a need to integrate landscape heterogeneity in spatially scaleable estimates of biodiversity. Both of these biodiversity assessment issues can be addressed using a new approach we term the Integrated Accumulation Function (IAF), a method based on combining component species accumulation curves. Using this approach on communities of canopy arthropods found in pinyon pine forests in the southwestern United States, we found three major patterns. First, in small stands, trees growing under low environmental stress support the greatest species richness. Second, when stands are large, stands growing under higher environmental stress support greater species richness, and species richness is resilient to change over a broad range of the stress gradient. Third, there are threshold levels of stress at both ends of the stress spectrum beyond which species are rapidly lost. This analysis reveals unexpected patterns and suggests that conservation practices should consider the inclusion of forests growing under suboptimal conditions to maximize the preservation of biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-735
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Sustainable Forestry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2011



  • arthropods
  • community
  • Pinus edulis
  • pinyon pine
  • species richness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Food Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment

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