Neglect of ecological knowledge is a limiting factor in the use of statistical modelling to predict species distribution. Three components are needed for statistical modelling, an ecological model concerning the ecological theory to be used or tested, a data model concerning the collection and measurement of the data, and a statistical model concerning the statistical theory and methods used. This component framework is reviewed with emphasis on ecological theory. The expected shape of a species response curve to an environmental gradient is a central assumption on which agreement has yet to be reached. The nature of the environmental predictors whether indirect variables, e.g. latitude that have no physiological impact on plants, or direct variables, e.g. temperature also influence the type of response expected. Straight-line relationships between organisms and environment are often used uncritically. Many users of canonical correlation analysis use linear (straight-line) functions to relate ordination axes to variables such as slope and aspect though this is not a necessary part of the method. Some statisticians have used straight lines for species/environment relationships without testing, when evaluating new statistical procedures. Assumptions used in one component often conflict with those in another component. Statistical models can be used to explore ecological theory. Skewed species response curves predominate contrary to the symmetric unimodal curves assumed by some statistical methods. Improvements in statistical modelling can be achieved based on ecological concepts. Examples include incorporating interspecific competition from dominant species; more proximal predictors based on water balance models and spatial autocorrelation procedures to accommodate non-equilibrium vegetation.
Ecological Modelling – Elsevier
Published: Nov 30, 2002
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