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Family-level surrogates are too coarse to assess environment-community interactions: A response to Jiang et al. (2019)

Xiong, Wei, Yang, Yuzhan, Zhan, Aibin
Ecological indicators 2019 v.102 pp. 466-468
Rotifera, environmental factors, environmental indicators, models, statistical analysis, taxonomy
Jiang et al. (Ecological Indicators, 2019, 96, 750–752) recently commented on our paper (Xiong et al., 2018a) that we underestimated the effectiveness of family-level surrogates for assessing environment-community interactions. Indeed, they did not properly perform statistical analyses, particularly redundancy analysis models. Even worse, they wrongly recommended the use of family-level surrogates according to their improper analyses. Here we clarify that the use of conservative classification of rotifer taxonomy in our study did not affect the conclusions, particularly the one that the genus-level, rather than family-level, surrogates were relatively reliable and effective in assessing community-environment interactions. The major reasons include: 1) Jiang et al. (2019) applied improper log (x + 0.001) transformation in redundancy analysis (RDA) and consequently overestimated the effectiveness of family-level surrogates; 2) The statistical methods that we used in our study (Xiong et al., 2018a) were completely appropriate, as forward selection was not limited by the normality assumption or collinearity among environmental variables. Based on both ways (conservative and revised) of taxonomy classification, the forward selection analysis clearly showed that critical environmental variables responsible for environment-community interactions were wrongly excluded when using family-level surrogates.