Limitations of entropy maximization in ecology: a reply to Haegeman and Loreau


  • Bill Shipley

B. Shipley (, Dépt de Biologie, Univ. de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, J1K 2R1, Canada.


Haegeman and Loreau published a paper that is primarily a criticism of a maximum entropy model of trait-based community assembly (by Shipley et al.) and purports to show the limitations of this method in ecology. However, they misunderstood the basic purpose, logic and justification of the maximum entropy formalism and, because of this, leveled criticisms of Shipley et al. that are unfounded. Part of the confusion can be traced to sloppy presentation of the underlying approach in Shipley et al. The confusion arises because maximum entropy models are justified based on information theory and Bayesian logic while the interpretation that Haegeman and Loreau present is based on substantive empirical assumptions about microstate allocations and a combinatorial argument that do not apply to maximum entropy models and which I do not apply to my model in particular.