Main Article Content
The characterisation and quantication of ecological interactions, and the construction
of species distributions and their associated ecological niches, is of fundamental
theoretical and practical importance. In this paper we give an overview of a Bayesian
inference framework, developed over the last 10 years, which, using spatial data, offers
a general formalism within which ecological interactions may be characterised and
quantied. Interactions are identied through deviations of the spatial distribution
of co-occurrences of spatial variables relative to a benchmark for the non-interacting
system, and based on a statistical ensemble of spatial cells. The formalism allows for
the integration of both biotic and abiotic factors of arbitrary resolution. We concentrate
on the conceptual and mathematical underpinnings of the formalism, showing
how, using the Naive Bayes approximation, it can be used to not only compare and
contrast the relative contribution from each variable, but also to construct species
distributions and niches based on arbitrary variable type. We show how the formalism
can be used to quantify confounding and therefore help disentangle the complex
causal chains that are present in ecosystems. We also show species distributions and
their associated niches can be used to infer standard "micro" ecological interactions,
such as predation and parasitism. We present several representative use cases that
validate our framework, both in terms of being consistent with present knowledge of
a set of known interactions, as well as making and validating predictions about new,
previously unknown interactions in the case of zoonoses.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Copyright for articles published in this journal is retained by the authors, with first publication rights granted to the journal. All articles are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.