Noble, AE, NM Temme, WF Fagan, TH Keitt. 2011. A sampling theory for asymmetric communities. Journal of Theoretical Biology 273: 1-14.

We introduce the first analytical model of asymmetric community dynamics to yield Hubbell's neutral theory in the limit of functional equivalence among all species. Our focus centers on an asymmetric extension of Hubbell's local community dynamics, while an analogous extension of Hubbell's meta-community dynamics is deferred to an appendix. We find that mass-effects may facilitate coexistence in asymmetric local communities and generate unimodal species abundance distributions indistinguishable from those of symmetric communities. Multiple modes, however, only arise from asymmetric processes and provide a strong indication of non-neutral dynamics. Although the exact stationary distributions of fully asymmetric communities must be calculated numerically, we derive approximate sampling distributions for the general case and for nearly neutral communities where symmetry is broken by a single species distinct from all others in ecological fitness and dispersal ability. In the latter case, our approximate distributions are fully normalized, and novel asymptotic expansions of the required hypergeometric functions are provided to make evaluations tractable for large communities. Employing these results in a Bayesian analysis may provide a novel statistical test to assess the consistency of species abundance data with the neutral hypothesis.