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When do we have the power to detect biological interactions in spatial point patterns

Murrell, DJ; Olhede, SC; Rajala, T; (2019) When do we have the power to detect biological interactions in spatial point patterns. Journal of Ecology 10.1111/1365-2745.13080. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Uncovering the roles of biotic interactions in assembling and maintaining species‐rich communities remains a major challenge in ecology. In plant communities, interactions between individuals of different species are expected to generate positive or negative spatial interspecific associations over short distances. Recent studies using individual‐based point pattern datasets have concluded that (a) detectable interspecific interactions are generally rare, but (b) are most common in communities with fewer species; and (c) the most abundant species tend to have the highest frequency of interactions. However, it is unclear how the detection of spatial interactions may change with the abundances of each species, or the scale and intensity of interactions. We ask if statistical power is sufficient to explain all three key results. We use a simple two‐species model, assuming no habitat associations, and where the abundances, scale and intensity of interactions are controlled to simulate point pattern data. In combination with an approximation to the variance of the spatial summary statistics that we sample, we investigate the power of current spatial point pattern methods to correctly reject the null model of pairwise species independence. We show the power to detect interactions is positively related to both the abundances of the species tested, and the intensity and scale of interactions, but negatively related to imbalance in abundances. Differences in detection power in combination with the abundance distributions found in natural communities are sufficient to explain all the three key empirical results, even if all pairwise interactions are identical. Critically, many hundreds of individuals of both species may be required to detect even intense interactions, implying current abundance thresholds for including species in the analyses are too low. Synthesis. The widespread failure to reject the null model of spatial interspecific independence could be due to low power of the tests rather than any key biological process. Since we do not model habitat associations, our results represent a first step in quantifying sample sizes required to make strong statements about the role of biotic interactions in diverse plant communities. However, power should be factored into analyses and considered when designing empirical studies.

Type: Article
Title: When do we have the power to detect biological interactions in spatial point patterns
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13080
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.13080
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: community ecology, determinants of plant community diversity and structure, interspecific interactions, neighbourhood analysis, null model, spatial point, patterns statistical power
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Statistical Science
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10060881
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