Species-area relationships always overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss: comment. Academic Article uri icon


  • The species–area relationship summarizes the relationship between the average number of species in a region and its area. This relationship provides a basis for predicting the loss of species associated with loss of habitat (e.g., Pimm and Raven 2000). The approach involves two steps. First, as discussed in more detail below, the species–area relationship is used to predict the number of species that are endemic to the habitat at risk based on its area. Second, these endemic species are assumed to become extinct should this habitat be lost. In a controversial paper, He and Hubbell (2011) argued that the way in which the species–area relationship is used to predict the number of endemic species is incorrect when individual organisms are aggregated in space and argued that this explains a discrepancy between predicted and observed extinction rates associated with habitat loss. The controversy surrounding the paper focused primarily on the second part of their argument (Brooks 2011, Evans et al. 2011, He and Hubbell 2012, Pereira et al. 2012, Thomas and Williamson 2012). Here, we focus on the details underlying the first part.

publication date

  • March 2013