Null model analysis of species nestedness patterns

Werner Ulrich, Nicholas J Gotelli


Nestedness is a common biogeographic pattern in which small communities form proper subsets of large communities. However, the detection of nestedness in binary presence-absence matrices will be affected by both the metric used to quantify nestedness and the reference null distribution. In this study, we assessed the statistical performance of eight nestedness metrics and six null model algorithms. The metrics and algorithms were tested against a benchmark set of 200 random matrices and 200 nested matrices that were created by passive sampling. Many algorithms that have been used in nestedness studies are vulnerable to type I errors (falsely rejecting a true null hypothesis). The best-performing algorithm maintains fixed row and fixed column totals, but it is conservative and may not always detect nestedness when it is present. Among the eight indices, the popular matrix temperature metric did not have good statistical properties. Instead, the Brualdi and Sanderson discrepancy index and Cutler's index of unexpected presences performed best. When used with the fixed-fixed algorithm, these indices provide a conservative test for nestedness. Although previous studies have revealed a high frequency of nestedness, a reanalysis of 28...Continue Reading


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