, Volume 42, Issue 1-3, pp 47-58

Detrended correspondence analysis: An improved ordination technique

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Detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) is an improvement upon the reciprocal averaging (RA) ordination technique. RA has two main faults: the second axis is often an ‘arch’ or ‘horseshoe’ distortion of the first axis, and distances in the ordination space do not have a consistent meaning in terms of compositional change (in particular, distances at the ends of the first RA axis are compressed relative to the middle). DCA corrects these two faults. Tests with simulated and field data show DCA superior to RA and to nonmetric multidimensional sealing in giving clear, interpretable results. DCA has several advantages. (a) Its performance is the best of the ordination techniques tested, and both species and sample ordinations are produced simultaneously. (b) The axes are scaled in standard deviation units with a definite meaning, (c) As implemented in a FORTRAN program called DECORANA, computing time rises only linearly with the amount of data analyzed, and only positive entries in the data matrix are stored in memory, so very large data sets present no difficulty. However, DCA has limitations, making it best to remove extreme outliers and discontinuities prior to analysis. DCA consistently gives the most interpretable ordination results, but as always the interpretation of results remains a matter of ecological insight and is improved by field experience and by integration of supplementary environmental data for the vegetation sample sites.

This research was supported by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Bangor, Wales, and by a grant from the National Science Foundation to R.H. Whittaker. We thank R.H. Whittaker for encouragement and comments, S.B. Singer for assistance with the Cornell computer, and H.J.B. Birks, S.R. Sabo, T.C.E. Wells, and R.H. Whittaker for data sets used for ordination tests.