MEPS 136:137-145 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps136137

Effect of reducing taxonomic resolution on ordinations to detect pollution-induced gradients in macrobenthic infaunal assemblages

Vanderklift MA, Ward TJ, Jacoby CA

Researchers often encounter taxonomic problems when analysing data on changes in macrobenthic assemblages due to pollution. In response, some authors have suggested that data at family and even phylum level may be sufficient to detect such changes. This hypothesis is commonly tested by visual comparisons of ordination plots generated by multidimensional scaling (MDS). Our study assessed this approach using a dataset previously shown to contain patterns in species composition that were related to both habitat type and heavy metal pollution. These data allow us to assess the ability of analyses at reduced taxonomic resolutions to detect 'signals' associated with pollution gradients among the 'noise' associated with habitat gradients. Such situations will arise in most studies of the impacts of pollution on inshore macrobenthic assemblages. The patterns associated with both habitat and pollution gradients were visible in ordinations based on data pooled to higher taxonomic levels. The similarity among ordinations based on different sets of pooled data was not fully supported by more detailed analyses. Changing the number of dimensions in ordinations, the taxonomic resolution, the attribute:object ratio and the non-zeros ratio of datasets all affected the matrix of association measures and the results of ordinations and Procrustes rotations. The effects of these changes were complex. Further work is needed to determine the likely effect of using data with reduced taxonomic resolution affect to detect impacts.

Taxonomic resolution . Macrobenthos . Infauna . Semi-strong hybrid multidimensional scaling . Procrustes rotation . Dataset characteristics . Effects of pollution

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