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Clustering species using a model of population dynamics and aggregation theory

Picard N., Mortier F., Rossi V., Gourlet-Fleury S.. 2010. Ecological Modelling, 221 (2) : p. 152-160.

The high species diversity of some ecosystems like tropical rainforests goes in pair with the scarcity of data for most species. This hinders the development of models that require enough data for fitting. The solution commonly adopted by modellers consists in grouping species to form more sizeable data sets. Classical methods for grouping species such as hierarchical cluster analysis do not take account of the variability of the species characteristics used for clustering. In this study a clustering method based on aggregation theory is presented. It takes account of the variability of species characteristics by searching for the grouping that minimizes the quadratic error (square bias plus variance) of some model's prediction. This method allows one to check whether the gain in variance brought by data pooling compensate for the bias that it introduces. This method was applied to a data set on 94 tree species in a tropical rainforest in French Guiana, using a Usher matrix model to predict species dynamics. An optimal trade-off between bias and variance was found when grouping species. Grouping species appeared to decrease the quadratic error, except when the number of groups was very small. This clustering method yielded species groups similar to those of the hierarchical cluster analysis using Ward's method when variance was small, that is when the number of groups was small. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : dynamique des populations; peuplement forestier; modèle mathématique; classification; espèce; forêt tropicale humide; guyane française

Thématique : Méthodes mathématiques et statistiques; Foresterie - Considérations générales; Ecologie végétale

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