Do communities exist? Complex patterns of overlapping marine species distributions
Understanding the way in which species are associated in communities is a fundamental question in ecology. Yet there remains a tension between communities as highly structured units or as coincidental collections of individualistic species. We explore these ideas using a new statistical approach that clusters species based on their environmental response- a species archetype, rather than clustering sites based on their species composition. We find that there are groups of species, which are consistently highly correlated, but that these groups are not unique to any set of locations and overlap spatially. The species present at a single site are a realisation of species from the (multiple) archetype groups that are likely to be present at that location based on their response to the environment.