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Biodiversity in DrylandsToward a Unified Framework$
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Moshe Shachak, Stewart T. A. Pickett, James R. Gosz, and Avi Perevolotski

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195139853

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195139853.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 27 November 2021

(p.15) 2 How Can High Animal Diversity Be Supported in Low-Productivity Deserts?: The Role of Macrodetritivory and Habitat Physiognomy

(p.15) 2 How Can High Animal Diversity Be Supported in Low-Productivity Deserts?: The Role of Macrodetritivory and Habitat Physiognomy

(p.15) 2 How Can High Animal Diversity Be Supported in Low-Productivity Deserts?: The Role of Macrodetritivory and Habitat Physiognomy
Biodiversity in Drylands

Gary A. Polis

Yael Lubin

Oxford University Press

On large spatial scales, species diversity is typically correlated positively with productivity or energy supply (Wright et al. 1993, Huston 1994, Waide et al. 1999). In line with this general pattern, deserts are assumed to have relatively few species for two main reasons. First, relatively few plants and animals have acquired the physiological capabilities to withstand the stresses exerted by the high temperatures and shortage of water found in deserts (reviewed by Noy-Meir 1974, Evenari 1985, Shmida et al. 1986). A second, more ecological mechanism is resource limitation. In deserts, the low and highly variable precipitation levels, high temperatures and high evapotranspiration ratios limit both plant abundance and productivity to very low levels (Noy-Meir 1973, 1985, Polis 1991d). This lack of material at the primary producer level should exacerbate the harsh abiotic conditions and reduce the abundance of animals at higher trophic levels by limiting the types of resources and their availability. Animal abundance should be even further reduced because primary productivity is not only low, but also tends to be sporadic in time and space (MacMahon 1981, Crawford 1981, Ludwig 1986). Herbivores should have difficulties tracking these variations (e.g., Ayal 1994) and efficiently using the available food resources. Hence, herbivore populations in deserts have low densities relative to other biomes (Wisdom 1991) and most of the primary productivity remains unused (Crawford 1981, Noy-Meir 1985). This low abundance of herbivores should propagate through the food web and result as well in lower abundance of higher trophic levels. The number of individuals and the number of species are not always positively correlated; in particular, some examples of low diversity at high productivity with high densities are well documented (e.g., salt marshes, reviewed by Waide et al. 1999). However, several distinct mechanisms have led to the expectation that when productivity and the number of individuals are low, the number of species is also likely to be low. First, within trophic levels, the “statistical mechanics” model of Wright et al. (1993) may operate. In this model, the amount of energy present determines the probability distribution of population sizes for the members of the species pool in a region.

Keywords:   Community ecology, Decomposition, Energy flow, Gape-limitation hypothesis, Macrodetritivores, Plant cover, Refuge

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