Evidence for a general species--time--area relationship


The species–area relationship (SAR) plays a central role in biodiversity research, and recent work has increased awareness of its temporal analogue, the species– time relationship (STR). Here we provide evidence for a general species–time–area relationship (STAR), in which species number is a function of the area and time span of sampling, as well as their interaction. For eight assemblages, ranging from lake zooplankton to desert rodents, this model outperformed a sampling‐based model and two simpler models in which area and time had independent effects. In every case, the interaction term was negative, meaning that rates of species accumulation in space decreased with the time span of sampling, while species accumulation rates in time decreased with area sampled. Although questions remain about its precise functional form, the STAR provides a tool for scaling species richness across time and space, for comparing the relative rates of species turnover in space and time at different scales of sampling, and for rigorous testing of mechanisms proposed to drive community dynamics. Our results show that the SAR and STR are not separate relationships but two dimensions of one unified pattern.