Wayne G. Landis


The community conditioning hypothesis describes ecological structures as historical, nonequilibrial, and by definition complex. Indeed, the historical nature of ecological structures is seen as the primary difference between single-species toxicity tests and multispecies test systems. Given the complex properties of ecological structures, multispecies toxicity tests need to be designed accordingly with appropriate data analysis tools. Care must be taken to ensure that each replicate shares an identical history, or divergence will rapidly occur. Attempting to realize homogeneity by linear cross inoculation or waiting for an equilibrium state to occur assumes properties that ecological structures do not have. Data analysis must also incorporate the dynamic and hyperdimensional nature of ecological structures. Univariate analysis of individual variables denies the fundamental character of ecological structures as complex systems. A variety of methods, such as correspondence analysis, nonmetric multidimensional scaling, and nonmetric clustering and association analysis, are available to search for patterns and to test their relationships to experimental treatments. Visualization techniques including Space–Time Worms and redundancy analysis are also critical in attempting to understand the dynamic nature of these structures. Reliance upon the traditional analysis methods, such as ANOVA and the estimation of LOECs (lowest observable effects concentrations) or NOECs (no observable effects concentrations), comparable to those of single-species toxicity tests, is to be blind to the unique and complex nature of multispecies toxicity tests. Fundamental design criteria for multispecies toxicity tests, data analysis, and interpretation are presented.