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Inherent Rarity in Community Restoration

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We explore the implications of an often overlooked fact in community restoration: most species, in real or synthetic communities, are infrequent or rare, a phenomenon we call “inherent rarity.” Whether from long-term interactions of many factors affecting birth, death, and establishment within natural communities, or from short-term interactions of recently created communities, species abundance distributions are roughly lognormal or even more attenuated. The greater the predisturbance species diversity of remnants or the planting diversity of restorations, and the smaller the area of a habitat patch, the more likely a large proportion of species will exist in populations so small that they are acutely or chronically vulnerable to local extinction. We suggest that habitat fragmentation will inevitably favor plants and animals that are highly mobile, early successional species, including many exotic weeds among plants, or species that are historically organized as metapopulations that happen to be common enough to function as such. We further explore rationales for countering the effects of inherent rarity, including connectivity from buffers, corridors, and stepping stones, and dominance suppression from seasonally appropriate mowing, grazing, or fire.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Biological Sciences (M/C 066), University of Illinois at Chicago, 845 W. Taylor Street, Chicago, IL 60607–7060, U.S.A.

Publication date: October 1, 2000

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