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Coastal biodiversity is complex due to the large numbers of species interacting in space and time at many different scales. Because little is known of the invertebrates which make up most of this biodiversity, conserving biodiversity is a difficult task. Robust analytical techniques must be developed that can measure natural changes in biodiversity before one will be able to assess whether biodiversity is changing in response to anthropogenic disturbances. Many attempts have been made to reduce the complexity of a species x sample data-matrix, which is the basic measure of biodiversity, into simpler measures, which are more amenable to analysis. These are not generally successful because they capture only part of the variation in assemblages of organisms. This paper introduces the basic components into which measures of biodiversity can be “decomposed” to allow existing methods of analyses and ecological knowledge to understand measures of and changes to biodiversity.

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