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Ecologists often analyze relative abundances, which are an example of compositional data. However, they have made surprisingly little use of recent advances in the field of compositional data analysis. Compositions form a vector space in which addition and scalar multiplication are replaced by operations known as perturbation and powering. This algebraic structure makes it easy to understand how relative abundances change along environmental gradients. We illustrate this with an analysis ofdoi:10.7287/peerj.5643v0.1/reviews/1 fatcat:oksac2ny75civltdxq3tjf25gi