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    Author(s): Robert J. SmithAndrew N. Gray
    Date: 2019
    Source: Journal of Vegetation Science. 30(1): 18-29.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (4.0 MB)


    Aims: Plant responses to disturbances and environmental variation can manifest in communities as compositional nestedness (i.e., one community is a subset of another) and/or turnover (two communities represent different compositional gradient spaces). Yet, different sampling designs can artificially give an illusion of such compositional differences among two datasets, making it problematic to harmonize them in multi-species analysis. We test the prediction that sampling differences which increase beta- diversity components (nestedness and turnover) among two vegetation datasets will decrease their exchangeability.
    Location: Boreal forests of Tanana River region, interior Alaska, USA.
    Methods: We develop novel methods for comparing compositional variation among two datasets in nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) ordination. Resampled NMDS establishes internal sampling variability for each dataset independently, and reciprocal NMDS determines external exchangeability when the two are mutually exchanged. We first compare simulated data with specified beta-diversity differences, then evaluate two forest inventories based on local vs regional sampling designs in Alaska’s boreal forests.
    Results: As simulated species turnover and nestedness increased, internal sampling variability remained essentially constant, but external exchangeability progressively declined. Species turnover (not nestedness) had the larger negative effect on exchangeability. Among the boreal forest inventories, internal sampling variability was relatively similar, and exchangeability was weakly moderate, but the regional inventory exhibited much better fit to broad-scale environment. Species turnover (not nestedness) contributed the majority of beta-diversity differences among the two forest inventories, suggesting that strong environmental gradients were unequally represented.
    Conclusions: Species turnover alters multivariate outcomes more drastically than species nestedness. Therefore, combining two vegetation datasets may be inadvisable when turnover prevails. Instead, a multi-scale perspective, with separate but complementary forest inventory analyses, can portray local and regional variation at appropriate scales. Our method is tractable for assessing exchangeability of potentially inconsistent sampling designs, like those that are common in synthesis studies and long-term ecological monitoring.

    Publication Notes

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Smith, Robert J.; Gray, Andrew N. 2019. Combining potentially incompatible community datasets when harmonizing forest inventories in subarctic Alaska, USA. Journal of Vegetation Science. 30(1): 18-29.


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    Beta-diversity, bootstrapped ordination, boreal forests, community compositions, cross validation, forest ecology, interior Alaska, national forest inventory, nonmetric multidimensional scaling, procrustes analysis, species abundance distributions, species pools.

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