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Model-based thinking for community ecology


Warton, DI and Foster, SD and De'ath, G and Stoklosa, J and Dunstan, PK, Model-based thinking for community ecology, Plant Ecology, 216, (5) pp. 669-682. ISSN 1385-0237 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

DOI: doi:10.1007/s11258-014-0366-3


In this paper, a case is made for the use of model-based approaches for the analysis of community data. This involves the direct specification of a statistical model for the observed multivariate data. Recent advances in statistical modelling mean that it is now possible to build models that are appropriate for the data which address key ecological questions in a statistically coherent manner. Key advantages of this approach include interpretability, flexibility, and efficiency, which we explain in detail and illustrate by example. The steps in a model-based approach to analysis are outlined, with an emphasis on key features arising in a multivariate context. A key distinction in the model-based approach is the emphasis on diagnostic checking to ensure that the model provides reasonable agreement with the observed data. Two examples are presented that illustrate how the model-based approach can provide insights into ecological problems not previously available. In the first example, we test for a treatment effect in a study where different sites had different sampling intensities, which was handled by adding an offset term to the model. In the second example, we incorporate trait information into a model for ordinal response in order to identify the main reasons why species differ in their environmental response.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:community-level modelling, fourth-corner problem, model checking, multivariate analysis, ordination, species distribution models
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Other environmental management
Objective Field:Other environmental management not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Foster, SD (Dr Scott Foster)
ID Code:118817
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:102
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2017-07-20
Last Modified:2017-08-09

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