Linking ecological processes with spatial and non-spatial patterns in plant communities

Calum Brown, Richard Law, Janine B. Illian, David F. R. P. Burslem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

1. Attempts to infer underlying ecological process from observed patterns in ecology have been widespread, but have generally relied on first-order (non-spatial) community characteristics such as the species abundance distribution (SAD). This measure has become an important test of several theories of species coexistence, but has proved unsuccessful in distinguishing between them.

2. Spatially explicit data are increasingly available for a range of ecological communities, and analysis methods for these data are well developed. However, relatively little work has investigated the potential of these data for similar inference about mechanisms of coexistence.

3. In this study, we systematically investigate the spatial and non-spatial signals of simulated ecological processes. We include neutral, niche, lottery, Janzen-Connell and heteromyopia models, deriving and comparing first-and second-order measures for the patterns they generate.

4. We find that the SAD is unable to distinguish reliably between underlying models, with random variation in its shape concealing any systematic differences.

5. A new second-order summary measure of spatial structure derived in this paper, in contrast, proves highly sensitive to the type of ecological interaction being modelled, and is robust to random variation.

6. Synthesis. A simple summary measure of the spatial structure of plant communities is presented and found to be a more powerful indicator of underlying process in simulated data than a widely used first-order measure, the SAD. The potential for answering important ecological questions using spatial statistics, particularly concerning mechanisms of coexistence in diverse communities, appears to be great.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1402-1414
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Ecology
Volume99
Issue number6
Early online date5 Aug 2011
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

Keywords

  • coexistence mechanisms
  • determinants of plant community diversity and structure
  • heteromyopia
  • Janzen-Connell
  • lottery
  • neutral
  • niche
  • pair correlation function
  • spatial point pattern
  • species abundance distribution
  • species abundance distributions
  • density-dependence
  • tropical forests
  • neutral theory
  • relative abundance
  • point patterns
  • diversity
  • tree
  • population
  • biodiversity

Cite this

Linking ecological processes with spatial and non-spatial patterns in plant communities. / Brown, Calum; Law, Richard; Illian, Janine B.; Burslem, David F. R. P.

In: Journal of Ecology, Vol. 99, No. 6, 11.2011, p. 1402-1414.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Brown, Calum ; Law, Richard ; Illian, Janine B. ; Burslem, David F. R. P. / Linking ecological processes with spatial and non-spatial patterns in plant communities. In: Journal of Ecology. 2011 ; Vol. 99, No. 6. pp. 1402-1414.
@article{6c63930f953748419f1aa3059d1edfd9,
title = "Linking ecological processes with spatial and non-spatial patterns in plant communities",
abstract = "1. Attempts to infer underlying ecological process from observed patterns in ecology have been widespread, but have generally relied on first-order (non-spatial) community characteristics such as the species abundance distribution (SAD). This measure has become an important test of several theories of species coexistence, but has proved unsuccessful in distinguishing between them.2. Spatially explicit data are increasingly available for a range of ecological communities, and analysis methods for these data are well developed. However, relatively little work has investigated the potential of these data for similar inference about mechanisms of coexistence.3. In this study, we systematically investigate the spatial and non-spatial signals of simulated ecological processes. We include neutral, niche, lottery, Janzen-Connell and heteromyopia models, deriving and comparing first-and second-order measures for the patterns they generate.4. We find that the SAD is unable to distinguish reliably between underlying models, with random variation in its shape concealing any systematic differences.5. A new second-order summary measure of spatial structure derived in this paper, in contrast, proves highly sensitive to the type of ecological interaction being modelled, and is robust to random variation.6. Synthesis. A simple summary measure of the spatial structure of plant communities is presented and found to be a more powerful indicator of underlying process in simulated data than a widely used first-order measure, the SAD. The potential for answering important ecological questions using spatial statistics, particularly concerning mechanisms of coexistence in diverse communities, appears to be great.",
keywords = "coexistence mechanisms, determinants of plant community diversity and structure, heteromyopia, Janzen-Connell, lottery, neutral, niche, pair correlation function, spatial point pattern, species abundance distribution, species abundance distributions, density-dependence, tropical forests, neutral theory, relative abundance, point patterns, diversity, tree, population, biodiversity",
author = "Calum Brown and Richard Law and Illian, {Janine B.} and Burslem, {David F. R. P.}",
year = "2011",
month = "11",
doi = "10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01877.x",
language = "English",
volume = "99",
pages = "1402--1414",
journal = "Journal of Ecology",
issn = "0022-0477",
publisher = "Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111)",
number = "6",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Linking ecological processes with spatial and non-spatial patterns in plant communities

AU - Brown, Calum

AU - Law, Richard

AU - Illian, Janine B.

AU - Burslem, David F. R. P.

PY - 2011/11

Y1 - 2011/11

N2 - 1. Attempts to infer underlying ecological process from observed patterns in ecology have been widespread, but have generally relied on first-order (non-spatial) community characteristics such as the species abundance distribution (SAD). This measure has become an important test of several theories of species coexistence, but has proved unsuccessful in distinguishing between them.2. Spatially explicit data are increasingly available for a range of ecological communities, and analysis methods for these data are well developed. However, relatively little work has investigated the potential of these data for similar inference about mechanisms of coexistence.3. In this study, we systematically investigate the spatial and non-spatial signals of simulated ecological processes. We include neutral, niche, lottery, Janzen-Connell and heteromyopia models, deriving and comparing first-and second-order measures for the patterns they generate.4. We find that the SAD is unable to distinguish reliably between underlying models, with random variation in its shape concealing any systematic differences.5. A new second-order summary measure of spatial structure derived in this paper, in contrast, proves highly sensitive to the type of ecological interaction being modelled, and is robust to random variation.6. Synthesis. A simple summary measure of the spatial structure of plant communities is presented and found to be a more powerful indicator of underlying process in simulated data than a widely used first-order measure, the SAD. The potential for answering important ecological questions using spatial statistics, particularly concerning mechanisms of coexistence in diverse communities, appears to be great.

AB - 1. Attempts to infer underlying ecological process from observed patterns in ecology have been widespread, but have generally relied on first-order (non-spatial) community characteristics such as the species abundance distribution (SAD). This measure has become an important test of several theories of species coexistence, but has proved unsuccessful in distinguishing between them.2. Spatially explicit data are increasingly available for a range of ecological communities, and analysis methods for these data are well developed. However, relatively little work has investigated the potential of these data for similar inference about mechanisms of coexistence.3. In this study, we systematically investigate the spatial and non-spatial signals of simulated ecological processes. We include neutral, niche, lottery, Janzen-Connell and heteromyopia models, deriving and comparing first-and second-order measures for the patterns they generate.4. We find that the SAD is unable to distinguish reliably between underlying models, with random variation in its shape concealing any systematic differences.5. A new second-order summary measure of spatial structure derived in this paper, in contrast, proves highly sensitive to the type of ecological interaction being modelled, and is robust to random variation.6. Synthesis. A simple summary measure of the spatial structure of plant communities is presented and found to be a more powerful indicator of underlying process in simulated data than a widely used first-order measure, the SAD. The potential for answering important ecological questions using spatial statistics, particularly concerning mechanisms of coexistence in diverse communities, appears to be great.

KW - coexistence mechanisms

KW - determinants of plant community diversity and structure

KW - heteromyopia

KW - Janzen-Connell

KW - lottery

KW - neutral

KW - niche

KW - pair correlation function

KW - spatial point pattern

KW - species abundance distribution

KW - species abundance distributions

KW - density-dependence

KW - tropical forests

KW - neutral theory

KW - relative abundance

KW - point patterns

KW - diversity

KW - tree

KW - population

KW - biodiversity

U2 - 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01877.x

DO - 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01877.x

M3 - Article

VL - 99

SP - 1402

EP - 1414

JO - Journal of Ecology

JF - Journal of Ecology

SN - 0022-0477

IS - 6

ER -