Metacommunity dynamics and the spurious detection of species associations in co-occurrence analyses: patch disturbance matters [article]

Vincent Calcagno, Nik Cunniffe, Frederic M Hamelin
2021 bioRxiv   pre-print
Many methods attempt to detect species associations from co-occurrence patterns. Such associations are then typically used to infer inter-specific interactions. However, correlation is not equivalent to interaction. Habitat heterogeneity and out-of-equilibrium colonization histories are acknowledged to cause species associations even when inter-specific interactions are absent. Here we show how classical metacommunity dynamics, within a homogeneous habitat at equilibrium, can also lead to
more » ... tical associations. This occurs even when species do not interact. All that is required is patch disturbance (i.e. simultaneous extinction of several species in a patch) a common phenomenon in a wide range of real systems. We compare direct tests of pairwise independence, matrix permutation approaches and joint species distribution modelling. We use mathematical analysis and example simulations to show that patch disturbance leads all these methods to produce characteristic signatures of spurious association from "null" co-occurrence matrices. Including patch age (i.e. the time since the last patch disturbance event) as a covariate is necessary to resolve this artefact. However, this would require data that very often are not available in practice for these types of analyses. We contend that patch disturbance is a key (but hitherto overlooked) factor which must be accounted for when analysing species co-occurrence.
doi:10.1101/2021.06.14.448327 fatcat:o4xg4sryrbg3xibuuankxwlusm