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Uncertainties in data and spurious correlations related to the Redfield ratio
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, LUVAL. (Miljöanalys)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences.
2009 (English)In: International review of hydrobiology, ISSN 1434-2944, E-ISSN 1522-2632, Vol. 94, no 3, 338-351 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Spurious correlations is a fundamental problem in situations where the   y-variable is a function of x, such as ratios u/x versus x or u, or   products, such as u x x versus x or u, or expressions such as (u-x)   versus x. The theory of spurious correlations was developed more than   100 years ago and yet there are numerous papers in aquatic ecology   presenting results as if they were mechanistically meaningful when   they, in fact, are clearly spurious. This is specifically so in contexts related to some of the most important issues in aquatic   ecology namely the question of "limiting" nutrient and the Redfield   ratio, defined as either TN/TP or DIN/DIP (TN = total-N, TP = total-P,   DIN = dissolved inorganic N, DIP dissolved inorganic P). We have   demonstrated by systematic tests using randomly generated data that the   patterns in spurious relationships can be identical to patterns in   empirical data that have been interpretated. in mechanistic terms. We   have collected empirical data from the Baltic Sea, Kattegat and   Skagerack and tested those data to see if spurious relationships exist.   The r(2)-values vary from 0.90 (TN/TP versus TP), 0.67 (DIN/DIP versus   DIN), 0.40 (DIN/DIP versus DIP) to 0.014 (TN/TP versus TN). Very little   mechanistic understanding about "limiting nutrient" and/or the role of   TN/TP or DIN/DIP-ratios can be deduced from these - and similar results   - because they are spurious. We have also shown that the ratios TN/TP   and DIN/DIP have significantly higher coefficients of variations (CV)   than TN, TP, DIN and DIP individually. This explains why these ratios   generally are poor predictors in contexts of nutrient limitation and in   modeling of primary production.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 94, no 3, 338-351 p.
Keyword [en]
aquatic systems, Baltic Sea, nitrogen, phosphorus, DIN, DIP
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-105245DOI: 10.1002/iroh.200811110ISI: 000269163200008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-105245DiVA: diva2:220818
Thresholds, 6th framework, EU
Available from: 2009-06-02 Created: 2009-06-02 Last updated: 2010-07-09Bibliographically approved

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International review of hydrobiology
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