University Of Tasmania

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Model-based thinking for community ecology

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 07:55 authored by Warton, DI, Scott FosterScott Foster, De'ath, G, Stoklosa, J, Dunstan, PK
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.


Publication title

Plant Ecology










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Kluwer Academic Publ

Place of publication

Van Godewijckstraat 30, Dordrecht, Netherlands, 3311 Gz

Rights statement

Copyright 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other environmental management not elsewhere classified