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Remotely sensed imagery has long been recognized as a powerful support for characterizing and estimating biodiversity. Spectral distance among sites has proven to be a powerful approach for detecting species composition variability. Regression analysis of species similarity versus spectral distance allows us to quantitatively estimate the amount of turnover in species composition with respect to spectral and ecological variability. In classical regression analysis, the residual sum of squares is minimized for the mean of the dependent variable distribution. However, many ecological data sets are characterized by a high number of zeroes that add noise to the regression model. Quantile regressions can be used to evaluate trend in the upper quantiles rather than a mean trend across the whole distribution of the dependent variable. In this letter, we used ordinary least squares (OLS) and quantile regressions to estimate the decay of species similarity versus spectral distance. The achieved decay rates were statistically nonzero (p < 0.01) considering both OLS and quantile regressions. Nonetheless, the OLS regression estimate of the mean decay rate was only half the decay rate indicated by the upper quantiles. Moreover, the intercept value, representing the similarity reached when the spectral distance approaches zero, was very low compared with the intercepts of the upper quantiles, which detected high species similarity when habitats are more similar. In this letter, we demonstrated the power of using quantile regressions applied to spectral distance decay to reveal species diversity patterns otherwise lost or underestimated by OLS regression.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2008