On Aggregating Species for Risk Assessment
Different combinations of species characteristics like dietary strategies and foraging tactics define unique pathways for material cycling and energy flow in ecosystems. I used multivariate cluster analysis on a species attribute matrix to identify groups of species with similar vulnerabilities of exposure to contaminants. The clusters of species may also have similar functions in ecosystems, because they use similar resources in similar ways. Cluster analyses produced hierarchical dendrograms of species relationships that were difficult to characterize with simple labels like herbivore or insectivore. Regardless of whether multivariate analyses are used for aggregating species into exposure guilds, the species attribute matrix is a concise statement of assumptions about how species function in ecosystems. By using species characteristics to aggregate and define assessments, it is hoped that assessment endpoints will be ecologically relevant.
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