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Escaping the Bonferroni iron claw in ecological studies



I analyze some criticisms made about the application of alpha-inflation correction procedures to repeated-test tables in ecological studies. Common pitfalls during application, the statistical properties of many ecological datasets, and the strong control of the tablewise error rate made by the widely used sequential Bonferroni procedures, seem to be responsible for some ‘illogical’ results when such corrections are applied. Sharpened Bonferroni-type procedures may alleviate the decrease in power associated to standard methods as the number of tests increases.

More powerful methods, based on controlling the false discovery rate (FDR), deserve a more frequent use in ecological studies, especially in those involving large repeated-test tables in which several or many individual null hypotheses have been rejected, and the most significant p-value is relatively large.

I conclude that some reasonable control of alpha inflation is required of authors as a safeguard against striking, but spurious findings, which may strongly affect the credibility of ecological research.