Population density–range size relationship revisited

Maria Novosolov*, Gordon H. Rodda, Alexandra C. North, Stuart H.M. Butchart, Oliver J.S. Tallowin, Alison M. Gainsbury, Shai Meiri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Aim: The species population density–range size relationship posits that locally abundant species are widely distributed. However, this proposed pattern has been insufficiently tested. The few tests conducted were usually limited in scale and gave conflicting results. We tested the generality of the positive population density–range size relationship. We then studied whether similar environmental niche requirements are correlated with range size and with population density to search for mechanisms driving the hypothesized link between population density and range size. Location: Worldwide. Methods: We collected data on population density, range size and environmental niche for a global dataset of 192 lizard, 893 bird and 350 mammal species. Assessing the relationship between population density and range size and environmental niche parameters, we corrected for phylogenetic relationships, body mass, diet and study area. Results: Our findings reveal that density had a weak negative correlation with bird range size and was unrelated to lizard and mammal range size. These trends were consistent at the global scale and across the biogeographical realms. Range size was related to relatively similar environmental niche parameters in all groups. Population density, however, was explained by taxon-specific factors and was therefore unrelated to range size by common causation. Main conclusions: We suggest that the positive relationship between population density and range size identified in previous studies might be an artefact arising through incomplete sampling of range sizes. Our results indicate that the mechanisms shaping population density and range size may be independent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1088-1097
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017


FundersFunder number
Clore Israel Foundation
Global Assessment of Reptile Distribution
Israel Science Foundation1005/ 12


    • birds
    • ecological rule
    • lizards
    • mammals
    • population density
    • range size


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