Spectral distance decay: Assessing species beta-diversity by quantile regression.
Remotely sensed data represents key information for characterizing and estimating biodiversity. Spectral distance among sites has proven to be a powerful approach for detecting species composition variability. Regression analysis of species similarity versus spectral distance may allow us to quantitatively estimate how beta-diversity in species changes with respect to spectral and ecological variability. In classical regression analysis, the residual sum of squares is minimized for the mean of the dependent variable distribution. However, many ecological datasets are characterized by a high number of zeroes that can add noise to the regression model. Quantile regression can be used to evaluate trend in the upper quantiles rather than a mean trend across the whole distribution of the dependent variable. In this paper, we used ordinary least square (OLS) and quantile regression to estimate the decay of species similarity versus spectral distance. The achieved decay rates were statistically nonzero (p 0.05) considering both OLS and quantile regression. Nonetheless, OLS regression estimate of mean decay rate was only half the decay rate indicated by the upper quantiles. Moreover, the intercept value, representing the similarity reached when spectral distance approaches zero, was very low compared with the intercepts of upper quantiles, which detected high species similarity when habitats are more similar. In this paper we demonstrated the power of using quantile regressions applied to spectral distance decay in order to reveal species diversity patterns otherwise lost or underestimated by ordinary least square regression.