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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 363:29-37 (2008)  -  DOI:

Simple procedures to assess and compare the ecological niche of species

Grégory Beaugrand1,*, Pierre Helaouët1,2

1Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), UMR 8013 ELICO, Station Marine, BP 80, 62930 Wimereux, France
2Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, The Laboratory Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK

ABSTRACT: Hutchinson’s (1957; Cold Spring Harbour Symp Quant Biol 22:415–427) niche concept is being used increasingly in the context of global change, and is currently applied to many ecological issues including climate change, exotic species invasion and management of endangered species. For both the marine and terrestrial realms, there is a growing need to assess the breadth of the niches of individual species and to make comparisons among them to forecast the species’ capabilities to adapt to global change. In this paper, we describe simple non-parametric multivariate procedures derived from a method originally used in climatology to (1) evaluate the breadth of the ecological niche of a species and (2) examine whether the niches are significantly separated. We first applied the statistical procedures to a simple fictive example of 3 species separated by 2 environmental factors in order to describe the technique. We then used it to quantify and compare the ecological niche of 2 key-structural marine zooplankton copepod species, Calanus finmarchicus and C. helgolandicus, in the northern part of the North Atlantic Ocean using 3 environmental factors. The test demonstrates that the niches of both species are significantly separated and that the coldwater species has a niche larger than that of its warmer-water congeneric species.

KEY WORDS: Ecological niche · Niche assessment · Statistical modeling · Macroecology

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Cite this article as: Beaugrand G, Helaouët P (2008) Simple procedures to assess and compare the ecological niche of species. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 363:29-37.

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