Multiple regression on distance matrices: a multivariate spatial analysis tool

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I explore the use of multiple regression on distance matrices (MRM), an extension of partial Mantel analysis, in spatial analysis of ecological data. MRM involves a multiple regression of a response matrix on any number of explanatory matrices, where each matrix contains distances or similarities (in terms of ecological, spatial, or other attributes) between all pair-wise combinations of n objects (sample units); tests of statistical significance are performed by permutation. The method is flexible in terms of the types of data that may be analyzed (counts, presence–absence, continuous, categorical) and the shapes of response curves. MRM offers several advantages over traditional partial Mantel analysis: (1) separating environmental distances into distinct distance matrices allows inferences to be made at the level of individual variables; (2) nonparametric or nonlinear multiple regression methods may be employed; and (3) spatial autocorrelation may be quantified and tested at different spatial scales using a series of lag matrices, each representing a geographic distance class. The MRM lag matrices model may be parameterized to yield very similar inferences regarding spatial autocorrelation as the Mantel correlogram. Unlike the correlogram, however, the lag matrices model may also include environmental distance matrices, so that spatial patterns in species abundance distances (community similarity) may be quantified while controlling for the environmental similarity between sites. Examples of spatial analyses with MRM are presented.

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