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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 630:1-12 (2019)  -  DOI:

Implications of using different metrics for niche analysis in ecological communities

Adam Gouraguine1,*, Carlos J. Melián2, Olga Reñones3, Hilmar Hinz4, Heather Baxter5, Luis Cardona6, Joan Moranta3

1School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK
2Department of Fish Ecology and Evolution, Center for Ecology, Evolution and Biogeochemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, 6047 Kastanienbaum, Switzerland
3Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO), Centre Oceanogràfic de les Balears, Ecosystem Oceanography Group (GRECO), Moll de Ponent sn, 07015 Palma, Spain
4Department of Ecology and Marine Resources, Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB), 07190 Esporles, Spain
5School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
6IRBio and Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Science, Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Explaining the mechanisms driving niche partitioning among species is of great importance in ecology. Unlike the fundamental niche, a species’ realised niche can only be measured in situ, as a result of biotic and abiotic interactions defining its size. Following current methodology, the realised niche of a species is often influenced by the rare and divergent individuals of the community sampled. In this study, using fish on coral and temperate reefs as an example, behavioural empirical data were collected to estimate realised niche sizes and niche overlaps. Niche measurements were made using the total area of the convex hull (TA), but as an alternative, a metric not as strongly influenced by sample size, standard ellipse area (SEA), was also used. A comprehensive description is given, and context-dependent pros and cons of using both metrics are discussed. Additionally, an alternative sample size correction was presented for both metrics. The analyses revealed large differences in the sizes of realised niches and their overlaps between species depending on the measurement metric used. Regardless of the species, niche size and overlap were always larger for TA than SEA. Increasing sample size reduced niche size variability for both TA and SEA, but the variation was always smaller for SEA than TA. We successfully adapted the SEA metric for analysis of behavioural niche components and demonstrated that measuring niche sizes using the 2 metrics, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, can produce contradictory results, the ecological consequences of which are likely to be important.

KEY WORDS: Realised niche · Niche variability · Standard ellipse area · Total area of the convex hull · Algal reefs · Coral reefs · Teleostei

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Cite this article as: Gouraguine A, Melián CJ, Reñones O, Hinz H, Baxter H, Cardona L, Moranta J (2019) Implications of using different metrics for niche analysis in ecological communities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 630:1-12.

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