Statistical validation of limiting similarity and negative co-occurrence null models : Extending the models to gain insights into sub-community patterns of community assembly
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Competition between species is believed to lead to patterns of either competitive exclusion or limiting similarity within ecological communities; however, to date the amount of support for either as an outcome has been relatively weak. The two classes of null model commonly used to assess co-occurrence and limiting similarity have both been well studied for statistical performance; however, the methods used to evaluate their performance, particularly in terms of type II statistical errors, may have resulted in the underreporting of both patterns in the communities tested. The overall purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the negative co-occurrence and limiting similarity null models to detect patterns believed to result from competition between species and to develop an improved method for detecting said patterns. The null models were tested using synthetic but biologically realistic presence-absence matrices for both type I and type II error rate estimations. The effectiveness of the null models was evaluated with respect to community dimension (number of species × number of plots), and amount of pattern within the community. A novel method of subsetting species was developed to assess communities for patterns of co-occurrence and limiting similarity and four methods were assessed for their ability to isolate the species contributing signal to the pattern. Both classes of null model provided acceptable type I and type II error rates when matrices of more than 5 species and more than 5 plots were tested. When patterns of negative co-occurrence or limiting similarity were add to all species both null models were able to detect significant pattern (β > 0.95); however, when pattern was added to only a proportion of species the ability of the null models to detect pattern deteriorated rapidly with proportions of 80% or less. The use of species subsetting was able to detect significant pattern of both co-occurrence and limiting similarity when fewer than 80% of species were contributing signal but was dependent on the metric used for the limiting similarity null model. The ability of frequent pattern mining to isolate the species contributing signal shows promise; however, a more thorough evaluation is required in order to confirm or deny its utility.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorLamb, Eric G.; Schamp, Brandon S.
CommitteeWillenborg, Chris J.; McLoughlin, Philip D.; Bai, Yuguang
Copyright DateSeptember 2014
negative species associations
Type II error rate