The Bell Lab
Department of Biology

Current Research Program
Major research themes


Neutral theory of biodiversity

The neutral theory of biodiversity states that major patterns in the distribution and abundance of ecologically similar organisms can be explained in a very simple way, by supposing that all individuals have the same probabilities of birth and death.  This is sufficient to generate abundance distributions, species-area curves and range-abundance relationships closely resembling those of natural communities.

  • Bell, G., Lechowicz, M.J. & Waterway, M.J. 2006.  The comparative evidence relating to the neutral theory of community ecology.  Ecology 87: 1378-1386.
  • Bell G. 2005.   The co-distribution of species in relation to the neutral theory of community ecology.  Ecology 86: 757-770.
  • Smith S.A., Bell G. & Bermingham E. 2004.  Cross-Cordillera exchange mediated by the Panama Canal increased the species richness of local freshwater fish communities.  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B , 271, 1889-1896.     (doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.2796). (See News@Nature 18 August 2004)
  • Bell G.  2001. Neutral macroecology.  Science 293: 2413-2418.
  • Bell G., Lechowicz M.J. & Waterway M.J.  2001.  The precision of adaptation in forest plants.  In Silvertown J. & Antonovics J. (editors) Integrating Ecology and Evolution in a Spatial Context, pp 117 - 138. 14th Special Symposium of the British Ecological Society. Blackwell Science, Oxford.
  • Bell, G. 2000. The distribution of abundance in neutral communities. The American Naturalist 155: 606-617.

Distribution of abundance in British birds (below) and a simulated neutral community (above).