Rank abundance curve

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A rank abundance curve or Whittaker plot is a chart used by ecologists to display relative species abundance, a component of biodiversity. It can also be used to visualize species richness and species evenness. It overcomes the shortcomings of biodiversity indices that cannot display the relative role different variables played in their calculation.

A rank abundance curve

The curve is a 2D chart with relative abundance on the Y-axis and the abundance rank on the X-axis.

  • X-axis: The abundance rank. The most abundant species is given rank 1, the second most abundant is 2 and so on.
  • Y-axis: The relative abundance. Usually measured on a log scale, this is a measure of a species abundance (e.g., the number of individuals) relative to the abundance of other species.

Interpreting a rank abundance curve[edit]

As mentioned, the rank abundance curve provide a means for visually representing species richness and species evenness. Species richness can be viewed as the number of different species on the chart i.e., how many species were ranked. Species evenness is derived from the slope of the line that fits the graph. A steep gradient indicates low evenness as the high ranking species have much higher abundances than the low ranking species. A shallow gradient indicates high evenness as the abundances of different species are similar.

External links[edit]

  • Whittaker Diagram, Procedural Content Generation Wiki - use of Whittaker diagrams in procedural content generation

References[edit]

  • Magurran, Anne E. (2004). Measuring biological diversity. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-632-05633-9. 
  • Whittaker, R. H. (1965). "Dominance and Diversity in Land Plant Communities: Numerical relations of species express the importance of competition in community function and evolution". Science 147 (3655): 250–260. doi:10.1126/science.147.3655.250. PMID 17788203.  edit