Neutral Ecology and Beyond

James O’Dwyer, Ryan Chisholm, Rafael D’Andrea

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article summarizes the history, formulation and results of neutral theory in ecology. The motivation for the development of neutral theory is outlined, including its foundations in the theories of molecular evolution and island biogeography. We provide an explicit mathematical formulation of Hubbell's original neutral model, and outline the predictions of this model and subsequent refinements and extensions, including recent efforts to test neutral predictions with temporal data. Neutral models have inspired the development of non-neutral models sharing some, but not all, of the assumptions of neutral theory, and some of these models are discussed. We summarize where neutral theory now sits in the broader field of theoretical ecology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Biodiversity, Third Edition
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1-7
ISBN (Electronic)9780128225622
ISBN (Print)9780323984348
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024


  • Biodiversity
  • Biogeography
  • Community ecology
  • Environmental stochasticity
  • Neutral theory
  • Null models
  • Spatial models
  • Species abundances
  • Species richness
  • Species–area relationship
  • Theoretical ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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