SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1998

Mathematical Methods for Comparing Structures of Ecological Communities: A Survey for Ecotoxicologists


Analyses of experimental data in ecotoxicology often involve making comparisons between or among the structures of different ecological communities. Not surprisingly, many methods have been developed for defining and comparing community structure: species richness, diversity indices, similarity indices, biotic indices. Most were developed for use in detecting environmental stress in aquatic ecosystems, but many perform equally well for terrestrial communities. This brief review examines the most frequently used and/or useful of these methods in order to explore differing approaches to the problems of quantifying community structure and comparing one community with another. The species richness method, S, is discussed. Diversity indices surveyed include: Shannon's H', Simpson's D, Brillouin's H, McIntosh's M, Cairns' Sequential Comparison Index, SCI, Hurlbert's “encounter” Index, PIE, and, Keefe and Bergersen's TU. Five similarity indices are reviewed: Jaccard's Index, Percentage Similarity Index, PSC, Bray-Curtis Index, Euclidean (or “ecological”) distance, and, Pinkham and Pearson's Index, B. Biotic indices covered are Beck's Biotic Index, Chandler's Biotic Score (CBS), Chutter's Index, and the Index of Biotic Integrity.

Author Information

Steele, C
Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA
Skinner, C
Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA
Price: $25.00
Contact Sales
Reprints and Permissions
Reprints and copyright permissions can be requested through the
Copyright Clearance Center
Developed by Committee: E47
Pages: 398–411
DOI: 10.1520/STP12178S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5384-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1485-2