, Volume 69, Issue 1, pp 89–107

An evaluation of the relative robustness of techniques for ecological ordination

  • Peter R. Minchin

DOI: 10.1007/BF00038690

Cite this article as:
Minchin, P.R. Vegetatio (1987) 69: 89. doi:10.1007/BF00038690


Simulated vegetation data were used to assess the relative robustness of ordination techniques to variations in the model of community variation in relation to environment. The methods compared were local nonmetric multidimensional scaling (LNMDS), detrended correspondence analysis (DCA), Gaussian ordination (GO), principal components analysis (PCA) and principal co-ordinates analysis (PCoA). Both LNMDS and PCoA were applied to a matrix of Bray-Curtis coefficients. The results clearly demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the linear techniques (PCA, PCoA), due to curvilinear distortion. Gaussian ordination proved very sensitive to noise and was not robust to marked departures from a symmetric, unimodal response model. The currently popular method of DCA displayed a lack of robustness to variations in the response model and the sampling pattern. Furthermore, DCA ordinations of two-dimensional models often exhibited marked distortions, even when response surfaces were unimodal and symmetric. LNMDS is recommended as a robust technique for indirect gradient analysis, which deserves more widespread use by community ecologists.


Detrended correspondence analysis Gaussian ordination Indirect gradient analysis Non-metric multidimensional scaling Ordination Principal components analysis Principal co-ordinates analysis Robustness Simulated data 

Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter R. Minchin
    • 1
  1. 1.CSIRO Division of Water and Land ResourcesCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department ofBiogeography and Geomorphology Research School of Pacific StudiesAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia