In contrast to their rarity, the commonness of species has historically received surprisingly little explicit attention from ecologists. However, this situation is changing. Here I review the current understanding of the nature of commonness, with particular emphasis on the dynamics and causes of this state, as well as on its ecological and evolutionary implications. Depending on the focal issue, common species can variously have lower, greater, or similar per capita influences compared with rare ones. Importantly, however, these influences almost invariably remain strong because of the high numbers of individuals and local occurrences in taxonomic assemblages contributed by the relatively few species that are common. The importance of these species highlights the significance of deepening concerns over the declines of many common species and the vital need for a balanced approach to maintaining their commonness while also addressing the more familiar conservation issue of preventing the loss of rare species.
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Vol. 61 • No. 5