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Revisiting the dimensionality of biological diversity

Nakamura, Gabriel, Gonçalves, Larissa Oliveira, Duarte, Leandro da Silva
Ecography 2020 v.43 no.4 pp. 539-548
biodiversity, small mammals, South America
Biodiversity can be represented by different dimensions. While many diversity metrics try to capture the variation of these dimensions they also lead to a ‘fragmentation’ of the concept of biodiversity itself. Developing a unified measure that integrates all the dimensions of biodiversity is a theoretical solution for this problem, however, it remains operationally impossible. Alternatively, understanding which dimensions better represent the biodiversity of a set of communities can be a reliable way to integrate the different diversity metrics. Therefore, to achieve a holistic understand of biological diversity, we explore the concept of dimensionality. We define dimensionality of diversity as the number of complementary components of biodiversity, represented by diversity metrics, needed to describe biodiversity in an unambiguously and effective way. We provide a solution that joins two components of dimensionality – correlation and the variation – operationalized through two metrics, respectively: evenness of eigenvalues (EE) and importance values (IV). Through simulation we show that considering EE and IV together can provide information that is neglected when only EE is considered. We demonstrate how to apply this framework by investigating the dimensionality of South American small mammal communities. Our example evidenced that, for some representations of biological diversity, more attention is needed in the choice of diversity metrics necessary to effectively characterize biodiversity. We conclude by highlighting that this integrated framework provides a better understanding of dimensionality than considering only the correlation component.