Diversity as effective numbers

For decades, biologists and ecologists have largely characterized biological diversity using metrics based on entropy, a concept rooted in information theory that suggests one can quantify the degree of uncertainty associated with predicting bits and pieces of information. In ecology, this has boiled down to determining whether species drawn from a community are the same or different. The metrics will sound familiar to anyone who has taken an introductory ecology class–the Shannon index, Simpson diversity–but Lou Jost, Anne Chao, and others have highlighted the fact that the non-linearity of these indices may lead researchers to grossly misinterpret the underlying diversity of the community in question.

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