A General Hypothesis of Species Diversity




Huston, Michael A.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


The American Society of Naturalists


Many explanations for diversity patterns have been proposed, and there have been several recent reviews of the subject (Pianka 1966, 1974; Ricklefs 1973; Pielou 1975). High diversity has been attributed both to intense competition which forces niche restriction (Dobzhansky 1950; MacArthur and Wilson 1967)and reduced competition resulting from predation (Paine 1966; Harper 1969; Janzen 1970; Connell 1975). Diversity has been positively correlated with productivity (Connell and Orias 1964; Pianka 1966; MacArthur 1969) and negatively correlated with productivity (Yount 1956; Margalef 1969). The question is far from settled. This paper develops an approach to the problem of species diversity based on the nonequilibrium interactions of competing populations. Under nonequilibrium conditions, differences in diversity are strongly influenced by variations in the rates of competitive displacement between communities, and such factors as relative competitive abilities, niche partitioning, etc., may not be particularly important. This approach deals primarily with the maintenance of diversity, as opposed to the generation of diversity. While most of the current diversity hypotheses have some relation to the evolutionary origin of diversity, this will not be emphasized here.



species diversity, nonequilibrium interactions, populations, competitive exclusion, Biology


Huston, M. (1979). A General Hypothesis of Species Diversity. The American Naturalist, 113(1), pp. 81-101.


Rights Holder

© 1979 by The University of Chicago.

Rights License

Rights URI