An Overview of Modern Applications of Negative Binomial Modelling in Ecology and Biodiversity

Jakub Stoklosa, Rachel V. Blakey, Francis K. C. Hui
2022 Diversity  
Negative binomial modelling is one of the most commonly used statistical tools for analysing count data in ecology and biodiversity research. This is not surprising given the prevalence of overdispersion (i.e., evidence that the variance is greater than the mean) in many biological and ecological studies. Indeed, overdispersion is often indicative of some form of biological aggregation process (e.g., when species or communities cluster in groups). If overdispersion is ignored, the precision of
more » ... odel parameters can be severely overestimated and can result in misleading statistical inference. In this article, we offer some insight as to why the negative binomial distribution is becoming, and arguably should become, the default starting distribution (as opposed to assuming Poisson counts) for analysing count data in ecology and biodiversity research. We begin with an overview of traditional uses of negative binomial modelling, before examining several modern applications and opportunities in modern ecology/biodiversity where negative binomial modelling is playing a critical role, from generalisations based on exploiting its Poisson-gamma mixture formulation in species distribution models and occurrence data analysis, to estimating animal abundance in negative binomial N-mixture models, and biodiversity measures via rank abundance distributions. Comparisons to other common models for handling overdispersion on real data are provided. We also address the important issue of software, and conclude with a discussion of future directions for analysing ecological and biological data with negative binomial models. In summary, we hope this overview will stimulate the use of negative binomial modelling as a starting point for the analysis of count data in ecology and biodiversity studies.
doi:10.3390/d14050320 fatcat:wzn7yiw7evhlfhghj7n2tnxiie