Ecology and paleoecology have over the past 40 or so years undergone a profound quantitative revolution, and techniques for assessing biodiversity have not been excluded. It is no longer adequate to assess the diversity of a community by stating only the number of species it contains; such a statistic gives equal weight to both common and rare species and ignores the effect of sample size on species numbers. Likewise, two or more communities cannot be compared on the basis of their number of species alone. Instead, one has at least to ask how the proportional abundances of species at the...

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