This paper introduces a new technique in ecology to analyze spatial and temporal variability in environmental variables. By using simple statistics, we explore the relations between abiotic and biotic variables that influence animal distributions. However, spatial and temporal variability in rainfall, a key variable in ecological studies, can cause difficulties to any basic model including time evolution. The study was of a landscape scale (three million square kilometers in eastern Australia), mainly over the period of 19982004. We simultaneously considered qualitative spatial (soil and habitat types) and quantitative temporal (rainfall) variables in a Geographical Information System environment. In addition to some techniques commonly used in ecology, we applied a new method, Functional Principal Component Analysis, which proved to be very suitable for this case, as it explained more than 97% of the total variance of the rainfall data, providing us with substitute variables that are easier to manage and are even able to explain rainfall patterns. The main variable came from a habitat classification that showed strong correlations with rainfall values and soil types. ?? 2010 World Scientific Publishing Company.
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Dynamics and spatio-temporal variability of environmental factors in Eastern Australia using functional principal component analysis