A primer on the study of transitory dynamics in ecological series using the scale-dependent correlation analysis

Oecologia. 2004 Mar;138(4):485-504. doi: 10.1007/s00442-003-1464-4. Epub 2004 Jan 31.


Here we describe a practical, step-by-step primer to scale-dependent correlation (SDC) analysis. The analysis of transitory processes is an important but often neglected topic in ecological studies because only a few statistical techniques appear to detect temporary features accurately enough. We introduce here the SDC analysis, a statistical and graphical method to study transitory processes at any temporal or spatial scale. SDC analysis, thanks to the combination of conventional procedures and simple well-known statistical techniques, becomes an improved time-domain analogue of wavelet analysis. We use several simple synthetic series to describe the method, a more complex example, full of transitory features, to compare SDC and wavelet analysis, and finally we analyze some selected ecological series to illustrate the methodology. The SDC analysis of time series of copepod abundances in the North Sea indicates that ENSO primarily is the main climatic driver of short-term changes in population dynamics. SDC also uncovers some long-term, unexpected features in the population. Similarly, the SDC analysis of Nicholson's blowflies data locates where the proposed models fail and provides new insights about the mechanism that drives the apparent vanishing of the population cycle during the second half of the series.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild*
  • Climate
  • Copepoda
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environment
  • Models, Biological*
  • North Sea
  • Population Dynamics
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Zooplankton