, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 203-215

A comparison of species diversity estimators

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Although having been much criticized, diversity indices are still widely used in animal and plant ecology to evaluate, survey, and conserve ecosystems. It is possible to quantify biodiversity by using estimators for which statistical characteristics and performance are, as yet, poorly defined. In the present study, four of the most frequently used diversity indices were compared: the Shannon index, the Simpson index, the Camargo eveness index, and the Pielou regularity index. Comparisons were performed by simulating the Zipf–Mandelbrot parametric model and estimating three statistics of these indices, i.e., the relative bias, the coefficient of variation, and the relative root-mean-squared error. Analysis of variance was used to determine which of the factors contributed most to the observed variation in the four diversity estimators: abundance distribution model or sample size. The results have revealed that the Camargo eveness index tends to demonstrate a high bias and a large relative root-mean-squared error whereas the Simpson index is least biased and the Shannon index shows a smaller relative root-mean-squared error, regardless of the abundance distribution model used and even when sample size is small. Shannon and Pielou estimators are sensitive to changes in species abundance pattern and present a nonnegligible bias for small sample sizes (<1000 individuals).