The effect of excluding diatom taxa and reducing taxonomic resolution on multivariate analyses and stream bioassessment
The goal of the present study was to evaluate whether the Eastern Canadian Diatom Index (IDEC: Indice Diatome´es de l’Est du Canada), which was built on fine-scale taxonomic resolution and included all observed diatom taxa, would perform similarly if a number of taxa were excluded from the analyses or if a reduced level of taxonomic resolution was used. The effects of excluding taxa and reducing the taxonomic resolution were evaluated by studying community structure variations in ordination analyses, and more specifically by comparing IDEC values calculated from the original diatom matrix with IDEC values obtained from simplified diatom matrices. The results showed that the exclusion of taxa based on the relative abundance criterion is the most appropriate, while the exclusion of taxa based on the frequency of occurrence criterion greatly affected the structure of the ordination. More specifically, taxa with a maximum relative abundance <2% can be excluded from the CA without markedly affecting the results. As a result, 125 taxa (40%) were excluded from the 311 taxa included in the original matrix without significantly affecting the performance of the IDEC. Excluding a greater number of taxa still allows for the distinction between impacted and reference sites, although subtle changes in the ecological status are lost. Ordinations based on presence/absence or genus-level identification resulted in a loss of information on subtle changes, but gross separation between impacted and reference sites was still possible.