A new index of dissimilarity is proposed to measure changes in community structure caused by environmental stress. A new statistical algorithm was also devised to test the similarity or dissimilarity between two communities. This procedure tests the mean dissimilarity within two communities against the mean dissimilarity between the same communities. These new indices are used along with other traditional indices of community structure in a proposed hierarchical scheme for testing different degrees of changes in stressed communities. Several examples illustrate that the procedures proposed give a more interpretible comprehensive analysis than the use of a limited set of indices.
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