Community Ecology

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 79–86 | Cite as

Sensitivity of diversity indices: a study of dipterous assemblages

  • J. IzsákEmail author
  • L. Papp


It is an essential property of diversity indices that increases in the abundance or frequency of the most frequent species result in a decline in diversity, whereas increases in the abundance of the rarest species lead to an increase in diversity. At the same time, without resort to mathematical operations, it is difficult to determine the sign and measure of alteration in diversity when increasing an additional frequency while leaving all others unaltered. A more concrete task is to determine the index response to a partial alteration of fixed percentage in the frequencies of the multi-species community or collection. Plotting the observed responses or sensitivity values against the frequencies concerned makes possible a good overview of the sensitivity relations. The mathematical groundwork of sensitivity analysis with respect to diversity indices has already been elaborated. To date, however, the methodological possibilities engendered by such analyses have yet to be exploited.

In the present work, sensitivity relations are discussed for apple-bait Drosophilidae collections and human faeces trap collections of flies inhabiting brook valleys in the low mountains of Hungary. Inspection of the results enables us to identify the range of frequencies at which significant increases or decreases in diversity will result. A relatively small increase of so-called nearly indifferent or quasineutral frequencies lying within that frequency range has a trivial influence on diversity values. While sensitivity is astonishingly sizeable with a few dominant case numbers, all other frequencies scarcely influence the index value.


Hill’s indices Hurlbert’s indices Rank - abundance curves Sensitivity parameters Shannon index 


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2001

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Berzsenyi CollegeSzombathelyHungary
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyHungarian Natural History MuseumBudapestHungary

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