In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ordination Analysis

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Applications
  • Journals
  • Historical Background
  • Contemporary Views

Ecology Ordination Analysis
David J. Gibson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0003


Ordination is a multivariate method of gradient analysis and data reduction in which the distribution of samples, often sample plots characterized by the abundance of individual species or life forms, or the value of environmental variables, is arranged in a few dimensions based on eigenanalysis or the similarity (often dissimilarity) among samples (i.e., a resemblance, correlation, or covariance matrix). The method allows hypotheses to be generated about the relationship between the species composition of a site and potentially explanatory characteristics of the environment. Since its introduction in the ecological literature in the early 1950s, ecologists have embraced several approaches to ordination analysis, which are listed here. There is often controversy in the literature about which method to use; whether or not to use direct or indirect, or constrained or unconstrained approaches; and which software to use.

General Overviews

Ordination analysis has been reviewed many times since it became a popular method of analyzing community data. Care should be taken with the older “classic” reviews such as Greig-Smith 1983, as they do not include discussion of the most recent developments in analytical approaches. Some overviews of ordination methods, such as Zuur, et al. 2007, are written to accompany particular software packages. Ludwig and Reynolds 1988 is a straightforward account suitable for advanced undergraduates; Manly 2005 is more advanced, whereas Legendre and Legendre 1998 is encyclopedic. McGarigal, et al. 2000 provides one of the more recent general overviews of ordination. In all of these sources, ordination analysis is discussed in one or more chapters as part of a wider coverage of multivariate methods in ecology. Quinn and Keough 2002 provides an overview of ordination analyses in their text on experimental design. Ordination Methods for Ecologists is a comprehensive online overview.

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