Bayesian analysis of community dynamics

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http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-10-6193-6
Title: Bayesian analysis of community dynamics
Author: Mutshinda Mwanza, Crispin
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2010-05-17
Language: en
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-10-6193-6
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/21285
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (article-based)
Abstract: Elucidating the mechanisms responsible for the patterns of species abundance, diversity, and distribution within and across ecological systems is a fundamental research focus in ecology. Species abundance patterns are shaped in a convoluted way by interplays between inter-/intra-specific interactions, environmental forcing, demographic stochasticity, and dispersal. Comprehensive models and suitable inferential and computational tools for teasing out these different factors are quite limited, even though such tools are critically needed to guide the implementation of management and conservation strategies, the efficacy of which rests on a realistic evaluation of the underlying mechanisms. This is even more so in the prevailing context of concerns over climate change progress and its potential impacts on ecosystems. This thesis utilized the flexible hierarchical Bayesian modelling framework in combination with the computer intensive methods known as Markov chain Monte Carlo, to develop methodologies for identifying and evaluating the factors that control the structure and dynamics of ecological communities. These methodologies were used to analyze data from a range of taxa: macro-moths (Lepidoptera), fish, crustaceans, birds, and rodents. Environmental stochasticity emerged as the most important driver of community dynamics, followed by density dependent regulation; the influence of inter-specific interactions on community-level variances was broadly minor. This thesis contributes to the understanding of the mechanisms underlying the structure and dynamics of ecological communities, by showing directly that environmental fluctuations rather than inter-specific competition dominate the dynamics of several systems. This finding emphasizes the need to better understand how species are affected by the environment and acknowledge species differences in their responses to environmental heterogeneity, if we are to effectively model and predict their dynamics (e.g. for management and conservation purposes). The thesis also proposes a model-based approach to integrating the niche and neutral perspectives on community structure and dynamics, making it possible for the relative importance of each category of factors to be evaluated in light of field data.
Subject: biometria
Rights: This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.


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