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Durham University

Department of Biosciences


Publication details for Dr Wayne Dawson

van Kleunen, M., Dawson, W., Bossdorf, O. & Fischer, M. (2014). The more the merrier: Multi-species experiments in ecology. Basic and Applied Ecology 15(1): 1-9.

Author(s) from Durham


A major objective in ecology is to find general patterns, and to establish the rules and underlying mechanisms that generate those patterns. Nevertheless, most of our current insights in ecology are based on case studies of a single or few species, whereas multi-species experimental studies remain rare. We underline the power of the multi-species experimental approach for addressing general ecological questions, e.g. on species environmental responses or on patterns of among- and within-species variation. We present simulations that show that the accuracy of estimates of between-group differences is increased by maximizing the number of species rather than the number of populations or individuals per species. Thus, the more species a multi-species experiment includes, the more powerful it is. In addition, we discuss some inevitable methodological challenges of multi-species experiments. While we acknowledge the value of single- or few-species experiments, we strongly advocate the use of multi-species experiments for addressing ecological questions at a more general level.