File(s) stored somewhere else

Please note: Linked content is NOT stored on Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington and we can't guarantee its availability, quality, security or accept any liability.

Changes in the analysis of temporal community dynamics data: A 29-year literature review

journal contribution
posted on 2021-11-03, 07:05 authored by HL Buckley, Nicola DayNicola Day, G Lear, BS Case
Background: Understanding how biological communities change over time is of increasing importance as Earth moves into the Anthropocene. A wide variety of methods are used for multivariate community analysis and are variously applied to research that aims to characterise temporal dynamics in community composition. Understanding these methods and how they are applied is useful for determining best practice in community ecology. Methodology: We reviewed the ecological literature from 1990 to 2018 that used multivariate methods to address questions of temporal community dynamics. For each paper that fulfilled our search criteria, we recorded the types of multivariate analysis used to characterise temporal community dynamics in addition to the research aim, habitat type, location, taxon and the experimental design. Results: Most studies had relatively few temporal replicates; the median number was seven time points. Nearly 70% of studies applied more than one analysis method; descriptive methods such as bar graphs and ordination were the most commonly applied methods. Surprisingly, the types of analyses used were only related to the number of temporal replicates, but not to research aim or any other aspects of experimental design such as taxon, or habitat or year of study. Conclusions: This review reveals that most studies interested in understanding community dynamics use relatively short time series meaning that several, more sophisticated, temporal analyses are not widely applicable. However, newer methods using multivariate dissimilarities are growing in popularity and many can be applied to time series of any length.


Preferred citation

Buckley, H. L., Day, N. J., Lear, G. & Case, B. S. (2021). Changes in the analysis of temporal community dynamics data: A 29-year literature review. PeerJ, 9, e11250-e11250.

Journal title




Publication date






Publication status


Online publication date






Article number