Surprisingly, although most processes which are thought to contribute to species coexistence have a strong spatial component, the rich source of information on spatial patterns has only rarely been used. To accomplish our goal, we take a radically different approach than previous attempts and adopt a spatially explicit perspective that will allow us to take significant steps towards a Unified Spatial Theory of Biodiversity. We use large and high quality data sets of tropical forests, each comprising several hundred of species and >100000 trees that are mapped, monitored and censused every 5 years.
We proceed in three steps.
(1) We quantify the highly complex spatial structures found in forests using recent techniques of spatial pattern analysis.
(2) We build a range of individual-based spatially-explicit simulation models ranging from “pure” neutral models to detailed process-based models of tropical forest, such as FORMIND.
(3) We use pattern-oriented modelling to confront these simulation models with the set of patterns identified in (1) to identify the most parsimonious models that account simultaneously for all (spatial) patterns.