In this paper we attempt to explain observed niche differences among species (i.e. differences in their distribution along environmental gradients) by differences in trait values (e.g. volume) in phytoplankton communities. For this, we propose the trait-modulated Gaussian logistic model in which the niche parameters (optimum, tolerance and maximum) are made linearly dependent on species traits. The model is fitted to data in the Bayesian framework using OpenBUGS (Bayesian inference Using Gibbs Sampling) to identify according to which environmental variables there is niche differentiation among species and traits. We illustrate the method with phytoplankton community data of 203 lakes located within four climate zones and associated measurements on 11 environmental variables and six morphological species traits of 60 species. Temperature and chlorophyll-a (with opposite signs) described well the niche structure of all species. Results showed that about 25% of the variance in the niche centres with respect to chlorophyll-a were accounted for by traits, whereas niche width and maximum could not be predicted by traits. Volume, mucilage, flagella and siliceous exoskeleton are found to be the most important traits to explain the niche centres. Species were clustered in two groups with different niches structures, group 1 high temperature-low chlorophyll-a species and group 2 low temperature-high chlorophyll-a species. Compared to group 2, species in group 1 had larger volume but lower surface area, had more often flagella but neither mucilage nor siliceous exoskeleton. These results might help in understanding the effect of environmental changes on phytoplankton community. The proposed method, therefore, can also apply to other aquatic or terrestrial communities for which individual traits and environmental conditioning factors are available.
- bayesian variable selection
Jamil, T., Kruk, C., & ter Braak, C. J. F. (2014). A Unimodal Species Response Model Relating Traits to Environment with Application to Phytoplankton Communities. PLoS ONE, 9(5), [e97583]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0097583