Beta diversity metrics and the estimation of niche width via species co-occurrence data: reply to Zeleny


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  • 1Zeleny (2008) demonstrated that the co-occurrence based assessment of species habitat specialization (introduced by Fridley et al. 2007) depends on the size of the species pool. To correct for the effect of the species pool on the estimation of species niche width, Zeleny suggested a modification of the original algorithm by replacing additive partitioning as a measure of beta diversity with Whittaker's beta.
  • 2We used simulated data to show that the alternative index proposed by Zeleny (2008) will poorly represent the niche widths of species inhabiting a set of plots with a highly skewed distribution of local richness values. We therefore expand on Zeleny's (2008) analysis by considering two additional metrics of beta diversity based on compositional similarity and by testing the performance of these indices under different local-regional richness relationships.
  • 3Synthesis. None of the four tested metrics of beta diversity produced unbiased estimates of niche width under curvilinear local-regional richness relationships. In this context, we provide additional guidance to potential users of co-occurrence based niche width estimates by specifying the conditions under which certain indices of beta diversity best represent niche width information.