Comparative performance of species-richness estimators using data from a subtropical forest tree community

Shi guang Wei, Lin Li, Bruno A. Walther, Wan hui Ye, Zhong liang Huang, Hong lin Cao, Ju Yu Lian, Zhi Gao Wang, Yu Yun Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


We used survey data collected from a large plot (20 ha) of sub-tropical forest in the Dinghushan Nature Reserve, Guangdong Province, southern China, in 2005 to test the comparative performance of nine species-richness estimators (number of observed species, three species-individual curve models, five nonparametric estimators). As the true species richness, we used the 210 free-standing shrub and tree species of >1 cm diameter at breast height recorded during the survey. This true species richness was then used to calculate performance measures of bias, accuracy, and precision for each estimator, whereby we distinguished performance for low, medium, and high sampling intensity. Unsurprisingly, all estimators performed better than the number of observed species in terms of bias and accuracy. Surprisingly, however, two curve models (logistic and logarithm) outperformed all other estimators in terms of bias, accuracy, and precision, which is in contrast to most other previous studies, in which nonparametric methods usually outperform curve models. Intriguingly, relative estimator performance changed between low, medium, and high sampling intensity, sometimes dramatically, reinforcing the assertion that the influence of sampling intensity on estimator performance is an important aspect to investigate and to consider when choosing estimators for ecological surveys. Because these results are based on only one dataset, the results should be treated with caution, both because (1) the generality of these results needs to be confirmed with simulated datasets and (2) more work is needed to establish what "true" species richness is extrapolated by each of the tested estimators in both the statistical and the practical sense. Nevertheless, the two curve estimators, namely Logistic and Logarithm, should be considered in future studies of comparative performance of species-richness estimators because of their outstanding performance in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Bootstrap
  • Chao1
  • Chao3
  • Jackknife
  • Species-individual curves
  • Species-richness estimation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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