Biodiv Sci ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (12): 23314.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2023314

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A review on the nested distribution pattern (nestedness): Analysis methods, mechanisms and conservation implications

Wang Yanping*()(), Zhang Minchu, Zhan Chengxiu   

  1. College of Life Sciences, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210023
  • Received:2023-09-04 Accepted:2023-12-08 Online:2023-12-20 Published:2023-12-20
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Background & Aim: Nested distribution pattern (nestedness) is an important part of the theoretical framework of island biogeography and community ecology. Nestedness occurs when the species on the species-poor islands are appropriate subsets of the species on the species-rich islands. Understanding the nestedness pattern and its mechanistic basis has important implications for biodiversity conservation and can be used to direct management efforts. In the past four decades, a series of important progressions have been made in the nestedness pattern in the research fields of analysis methods, underlying mechanisms, and biodiversity conservation. The overall aim of this study is to review this rapidly developing literature of nestedness studies and provide comprehensive suggestions and guidelines for future studies.

Review Results: We first introduced the history of how nestedness was developed and then analyzed the nestedness literature from different aspects, i.e. a comparison of publications among continents, countries, taxa, and time. Second, we introduced the analysis methods of nestedness in detail, including the various kinds of nestedness metrics and null models as well as their advantages and shortcomings. Third, we reviewed the five main hypotheses underlying nestedness, including passive sampling, selective extinction, selective colonization, habitat nestedness, and human disturbance. Furthermore, we introduced how to apply nestedness analyses to direct management efforts so as to effectively conserve biodiversity. Finally, we provided specific suggestions and guidelines for future nestedness studies, including selecting appropriate nestedness metrics and null models for nestedness analysis, testing multiple hypotheses underlying nestedness simultaneously, conducting more studies on functional nestedness and phylogenetic nestedness, and integrating nestedness with other related research fields such as the small-island effect.

Conclusions: Our review will be helpful for a comprehensive understanding of the research progress of nestedness which will prove to be important for promoting the rapid development of this research field in China.

Key words: island biogeography, community ecology, nested subset pattern, nestedness analysis, nestedness metrics, functional nestedness, phylogenetic nestedness, null model, influencing mechanisms