A1 Journal article (refereed)
Analyzing environmental‐trait interactions in ecological communities with fourth‐corner latent variable models (2021)

Niku, J., Hui, F. K. C., Taskinen, S., & Warton, D. I. (2021). Analyzing environmental‐trait interactions in ecological communities with fourth‐corner latent variable models. Environmetrics, 32(6), Article e2683. https://doi.org/10.1002/env.2683

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Niku, Jenni; Hui, Francis K. C.; Taskinen, Sara; Warton, David I.

Journal or series: Environmetrics

ISSN: 1180-4009

eISSN: 1099-095X

Publication year: 2021

Publication date: 25/05/2021

Volume: 32

Issue number: 6

Article number: e2683

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/env.2683

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Partially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/76080


In ecological community studies it is often of interest to study the effect of species related trait variables on abundances or presence-absences. Specifically, the interest may lay in the interactions between environmental and trait variables. An increasingly popular approach for studying such interactions is to use the so-called fourth-corner model, which explicitly posits a regression model where the mean response of each species is a function of interactions between covariate and trait predictors (among other terms). On the other hand, many of the fourth-corner models currently applied in the literature are too simplistic to properly account for variation in environmental and trait response and any residual covariation between species. To overcome this problem, we propose a fourth-corner latent variable model which combines the following three features: latent variables to capture the correlation between species, fourth-corner terms to account for environment-trait interactions, and species-specific random slopes for modeling excess heterogeneity between species in their environmental response. We perform an extensive numerical study comparing a variety of fourth-corner models available in the literature which account for the aforementioned sources of variation to varying degrees. Simulation results demonstrate that the proposed fourth-corner latent variable models performed well when testing for the fourth-corner (interaction) coefficients, across both Type I error and power. By comparison, some models that do not full account for all relevant sources of variation suffer from inflated Type I error leading to potentially misleading inference. The proposed method is illustrated by an example on ground beetle data.

Keywords: ecology; biotic communities; environmental changes; statistical models; multivariable methods

Free keywords: community analysis; fourth-corner problem; generalized linear mixed model; joint species distribution model; multivariate abundance data; variational approximation

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2021

JUFO rating: 1

Last updated on 2022-20-09 at 14:41