Balancing generality and specificity in ecological gradient analysis with species abundance distributions and individual size distributions

Jian Yen, Jonathan Keith, David Paganin, Erica Fleishman, David Dobkin, Joanne Bennett, Mac Nally, Ralph MAC NALLY

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    4 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Aim
    Data on ecological communities are often condensed into single-valued diversity indices, which support comparisons among ecosystems but may discard important information. At the other extreme, some studies retain full data on the identities of all species present, which retains maximum information on community structure but occludes comparisons among ecosystems. We sought to determine whether the analysis of species abundance distributions and individual size distributions could support more detailed inferences than diversity indices while remaining sufficiently general to identify fundamental ecological responses in multiple ecosystems.
    Location
    The United States and south-eastern Australia.
    Methods
    We analysed changes in species abundance distributions and individual size distributions along environmental gradients. We compared analyses of distributions with analyses of five diversity indices and with a distance-based multivariate analysis of species composition. We used data from 1438 fish communities in the United States and from 840 bird communities in the western United States and south-eastern Australia. These communities were sampled over 10–20 years and included 298 species of birds and 488 species of fishes.
    Results
    Analyses of species abundance distributions and individual size distributions identified environmental associations that were not found in analyses of diversity indices, and revealed common associations with shrubs in bird communities on different continents and with temperature in communities of birds and fishes. Individual size distributions were associated more closely with environmental variables than were species abundance distributions.
    Main conclusions
    Our novel identification of ecological associations suggests that analyses of community distributions might reveal fundamental ecological processes common to multiple ecosystems. Close associations between individual sizes and environmental variables suggest that a greater focus on size in ecological analyses might assist in the development of general models of ecological communities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)318-332
    Number of pages15
    JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
    Volume26
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Fingerprint

    gradient analysis
    biogeography
    ecosystems
    birds
    diversity index
    bird
    environmental factors
    ecosystem
    Western United States
    fish
    multivariate analysis
    community structure
    shrubs
    species diversity
    distribution
    environmental gradient
    temperature
    shrub

    Cite this

    Yen, Jian ; Keith, Jonathan ; Paganin, David ; Fleishman, Erica ; Dobkin, David ; Bennett, Joanne ; Nally, Mac ; MAC NALLY, Ralph. / Balancing generality and specificity in ecological gradient analysis with species abundance distributions and individual size distributions. In: Global Ecology and Biogeography. 2017 ; Vol. 26. pp. 318-332.
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    title = "Balancing generality and specificity in ecological gradient analysis with species abundance distributions and individual size distributions",
    abstract = "AimData on ecological communities are often condensed into single-valued diversity indices, which support comparisons among ecosystems but may discard important information. At the other extreme, some studies retain full data on the identities of all species present, which retains maximum information on community structure but occludes comparisons among ecosystems. We sought to determine whether the analysis of species abundance distributions and individual size distributions could support more detailed inferences than diversity indices while remaining sufficiently general to identify fundamental ecological responses in multiple ecosystems.LocationThe United States and south-eastern Australia.MethodsWe analysed changes in species abundance distributions and individual size distributions along environmental gradients. We compared analyses of distributions with analyses of five diversity indices and with a distance-based multivariate analysis of species composition. We used data from 1438 fish communities in the United States and from 840 bird communities in the western United States and south-eastern Australia. These communities were sampled over 10–20 years and included 298 species of birds and 488 species of fishes.ResultsAnalyses of species abundance distributions and individual size distributions identified environmental associations that were not found in analyses of diversity indices, and revealed common associations with shrubs in bird communities on different continents and with temperature in communities of birds and fishes. Individual size distributions were associated more closely with environmental variables than were species abundance distributions.Main conclusionsOur novel identification of ecological associations suggests that analyses of community distributions might reveal fundamental ecological processes common to multiple ecosystems. Close associations between individual sizes and environmental variables suggest that a greater focus on size in ecological analyses might assist in the development of general models of ecological communities.",
    author = "Jian Yen and Jonathan Keith and David Paganin and Erica Fleishman and David Dobkin and Joanne Bennett and Mac Nally and {MAC NALLY}, Ralph",
    year = "2017",
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    Balancing generality and specificity in ecological gradient analysis with species abundance distributions and individual size distributions. / Yen, Jian; Keith, Jonathan; Paganin, David; Fleishman, Erica; Dobkin, David; Bennett, Joanne; Nally, Mac; MAC NALLY, Ralph.

    In: Global Ecology and Biogeography, Vol. 26, 2017, p. 318-332.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Balancing generality and specificity in ecological gradient analysis with species abundance distributions and individual size distributions

    AU - Yen, Jian

    AU - Keith, Jonathan

    AU - Paganin, David

    AU - Fleishman, Erica

    AU - Dobkin, David

    AU - Bennett, Joanne

    AU - Nally, Mac

    AU - MAC NALLY, Ralph

    PY - 2017

    Y1 - 2017

    N2 - AimData on ecological communities are often condensed into single-valued diversity indices, which support comparisons among ecosystems but may discard important information. At the other extreme, some studies retain full data on the identities of all species present, which retains maximum information on community structure but occludes comparisons among ecosystems. We sought to determine whether the analysis of species abundance distributions and individual size distributions could support more detailed inferences than diversity indices while remaining sufficiently general to identify fundamental ecological responses in multiple ecosystems.LocationThe United States and south-eastern Australia.MethodsWe analysed changes in species abundance distributions and individual size distributions along environmental gradients. We compared analyses of distributions with analyses of five diversity indices and with a distance-based multivariate analysis of species composition. We used data from 1438 fish communities in the United States and from 840 bird communities in the western United States and south-eastern Australia. These communities were sampled over 10–20 years and included 298 species of birds and 488 species of fishes.ResultsAnalyses of species abundance distributions and individual size distributions identified environmental associations that were not found in analyses of diversity indices, and revealed common associations with shrubs in bird communities on different continents and with temperature in communities of birds and fishes. Individual size distributions were associated more closely with environmental variables than were species abundance distributions.Main conclusionsOur novel identification of ecological associations suggests that analyses of community distributions might reveal fundamental ecological processes common to multiple ecosystems. Close associations between individual sizes and environmental variables suggest that a greater focus on size in ecological analyses might assist in the development of general models of ecological communities.

    AB - AimData on ecological communities are often condensed into single-valued diversity indices, which support comparisons among ecosystems but may discard important information. At the other extreme, some studies retain full data on the identities of all species present, which retains maximum information on community structure but occludes comparisons among ecosystems. We sought to determine whether the analysis of species abundance distributions and individual size distributions could support more detailed inferences than diversity indices while remaining sufficiently general to identify fundamental ecological responses in multiple ecosystems.LocationThe United States and south-eastern Australia.MethodsWe analysed changes in species abundance distributions and individual size distributions along environmental gradients. We compared analyses of distributions with analyses of five diversity indices and with a distance-based multivariate analysis of species composition. We used data from 1438 fish communities in the United States and from 840 bird communities in the western United States and south-eastern Australia. These communities were sampled over 10–20 years and included 298 species of birds and 488 species of fishes.ResultsAnalyses of species abundance distributions and individual size distributions identified environmental associations that were not found in analyses of diversity indices, and revealed common associations with shrubs in bird communities on different continents and with temperature in communities of birds and fishes. Individual size distributions were associated more closely with environmental variables than were species abundance distributions.Main conclusionsOur novel identification of ecological associations suggests that analyses of community distributions might reveal fundamental ecological processes common to multiple ecosystems. Close associations between individual sizes and environmental variables suggest that a greater focus on size in ecological analyses might assist in the development of general models of ecological communities.

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