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Ecology or mythology? Are Whittaker's "gradient analysis" curves reliable evidence of continuity in vegetation?

Wilson, JB; Agnew, ADQ and Sykes, Martin LU (2004) In Preslia 76(3). p.245-253
Abstract
Whittaker was one of the leading ecologists of his generation, introducing several ideas to plant community ecology. One approach involved deriving environmental-correlation curves in attempts to determine how the abundance of individual species changed along environmental gradients. These curves have been used extensively in the ecological literature of the last 50 years. However, there has been no examination of whether the methods used were sufficiently rigorous to justify Whittaker's conclusions, let alone the very widespread use of them by others to draw general conclusions. Whittaker's curves were based on large amounts of fieldwork. However, the sampling methods used were subjective, and the analyses of the data were often circular.... (More)
Whittaker was one of the leading ecologists of his generation, introducing several ideas to plant community ecology. One approach involved deriving environmental-correlation curves in attempts to determine how the abundance of individual species changed along environmental gradients. These curves have been used extensively in the ecological literature of the last 50 years. However, there has been no examination of whether the methods used were sufficiently rigorous to justify Whittaker's conclusions, let alone the very widespread use of them by others to draw general conclusions. Whittaker's curves were based on large amounts of fieldwork. However, the sampling methods used were subjective, and the analyses of the data were often circular. When the curves are compared to the data on which they were based, it can be seen that many of the features that Whittaker claimed to see in his graphs are not supported. Whittaker's main conclusions may have been correct but his studies do not stand up as pieces of scientific work. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
species, gradient analysis, community ecology, environmental gradients, Whittaker's curves, abundance
in
Preslia
volume
76
issue
3
pages
245 - 253
publisher
Czech Botanical Society
external identifiers
  • wos:000224415100004
ISSN
0032-7786
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
3c2dae6f-8e3d-4609-84ab-9a76045fd791 (old id 263056)
alternative location
http://www.ibot.cas.cz/preslia/P043CWil.pdf
date added to LUP
2007-11-05 14:12:55
date last changed
2016-04-16 04:25:47
@article{3c2dae6f-8e3d-4609-84ab-9a76045fd791,
  abstract     = {Whittaker was one of the leading ecologists of his generation, introducing several ideas to plant community ecology. One approach involved deriving environmental-correlation curves in attempts to determine how the abundance of individual species changed along environmental gradients. These curves have been used extensively in the ecological literature of the last 50 years. However, there has been no examination of whether the methods used were sufficiently rigorous to justify Whittaker's conclusions, let alone the very widespread use of them by others to draw general conclusions. Whittaker's curves were based on large amounts of fieldwork. However, the sampling methods used were subjective, and the analyses of the data were often circular. When the curves are compared to the data on which they were based, it can be seen that many of the features that Whittaker claimed to see in his graphs are not supported. Whittaker's main conclusions may have been correct but his studies do not stand up as pieces of scientific work.},
  author       = {Wilson, JB and Agnew, ADQ and Sykes, Martin},
  issn         = {0032-7786},
  keyword      = {species,gradient analysis,community ecology,environmental gradients,Whittaker's curves,abundance},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {245--253},
  publisher    = {Czech Botanical Society},
  series       = {Preslia},
  title        = {Ecology or mythology? Are Whittaker's "gradient analysis" curves reliable evidence of continuity in vegetation?},
  volume       = {76},
  year         = {2004},
}