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Keywords:

  • LISA;
  • simulation;
  • drift;
  • Isolation by distance;
  • Liatris cylindracea;
  • Erythronium grandiflorum;
  • Drosophila buzzatii

Spatial autocorrelation (SA) methods have recently been extended to include the detection of local spatial autocorrelation at individual sampling stations. We review the formulas for these statistics and report on the results of an extensive population-genetic simulation study we have published elsewhere to test the applicability of these methods in spatially distributed biological data. We find that most biological variables exhibit global SA, and that in such cases the methods proposed for testing the significance of local SA coefficients reject the null hypothesis excessively. When global SA is absent, permutational methods for testing significance yield reliable results. Although standard errors have been published for the local SA coefficients, their employment using an asymptotically normal approach leads to unreliable results; permutational methods are preferred. In addition to significance tests of suspected non-stationary localities, we can use these methods in an exploratory manner to find and identify hotspots (places with positive local SA) and coldspots (negative local SA) in a dataset. We illustrate the application of these methods in three biological examples from plant population biology, ecology and population genetics. The examples range from the study of single variables to the joint analysis of several variables and can lead to successful demographic and evolutionary inferences about the populations studied.