U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in Ecology Letters (2013) 16: 707–719. DOI: 10.1111/ele.12084


Dendritic ecological networks (DENs) are a unique form of ecological networks that exhibit a dendritic network topology (e.g. stream and cave networks or plant architecture). DENs have a dual spatial representation; as points within the network and as points in geographical space. Consequently, some analytical methods used to quantify relationships in other types of ecological networks, or in 2-D space, may be inadequate for studying the influence of structure and connectivity on ecological processes within DENs. We propose a conceptual taxonomy of network analysis methods that account for DEN characteristics to varying degrees and provide a synthesis of the different approaches within the context of stream ecology. Within this context, we summarise the key innovations of a new family of spatial statistical models that describe spatial relationships in DENs. Finally, we discuss how different network analyses may be combined to address more complex and novel research questions. While our main focus is streams, the taxonomy of network analyses is also relevant anywhere spatial patterns in both network and 2-D space can be used to explore the influence of multi-scale processes on biota and their habitat (e.g. plant morphology and pest infestation, or preferential migration along stream or road corridors).