[R] Comparing spatial distributions - permutation test implementation

JiHO jo.lists at gmail.com
Wed May 20 17:34:24 CEST 2009

Hello everyone,

I am looking at the joint spatial distribution of 2 kinds of organisms  
(estimated on a grid of points) and want to test for significant  
association or dissociation.

My first question is: do you know a nice technique to do that,  
considering that I have a limited number of points (36) but that they  
are repeated (4 times)? I did GLMs to test for correlations between  
the two (hence forgetting about the spatial aspect of it) and was  
previously pointed to the SADIE software. Would there be anything  
explicitly spatial and available in R please?

Then, Syrjala's test[1] seems appropriate and tests for differences in  
distribution. It computes a Cramér-von Mises-type statistic and tests  
its significance with a permutation test.
I implemented the test in R and posted the code on these mailing  
lists[2]. Some people checked it and confirmed that the statistic  
gives correct results but my estimation of the p-value does not match  
the one predicted with the orignal software from Syrjala. I don't know  
what I am doing wrong. The permutation test is described by Syrjala as:

         (...) Under the null hypothesis,
         at a given sampling location (x_k, y_k), either density ob-
         servation y_i(x_k, y_k), i = 1, 2, is equally likely for each
         population. Thus, for a given data set, the distribution
         of the test statistic can be constructed by calculating
         the value of the test statistic for all 2^k pairwise per-
         mutations of the data set. (...) The level of signif-
         icance of a specific realization of the test statistic T is
         determined from its position in the ordered set of test
         statistic values from all 2^k permutations. (...)

My understanding is that, for each permutation I should choose a  
random number of points (between 1 and k), swap the values for species  
1 and species 2 at those points, and recompute the test on the new  
data. But this does not work :/ . Here is my code and associated data  
from Syrjala (for which I have reference values). Any advice would be  
very welcome (in particular if there is a way to leverage boot() for  
NB: computing the 1000 permutations can be a bit lengthy, but  
fortunately, by using plyr, you get a nice progress bar to look at!

syrjala.stat <- function(x, y=NULL, var1=NULL, var2=NULL)
#	Compute Syrjala statistic
#	x, y			coordinates
#	var1, var2	value of 2 parameters both measured at (x,y) points
#	NB: x can also be a data.frame/matrix containing x,y,var1,var2 as  
	# Input checks
	if (!is.null(ncol(x))) {
		if (ncol(x) == 4) {
			names(x) = c("x","y","var1","var2")
			dat = x
		} else {
			stop("Wrong number of columns in argument x")
	} else {
		dat = data.frame(x, y, var1, var2)

	# Normalize abundances
	dat$var1 = dat$var1/sum(dat$var1)
	dat$var2 = dat$var2/sum(dat$var2)

	# For each point (each line of dat)
	# compute the squared difference in gammas from each origin
	meanSqDiff = apply(dat, 1, function(d, coord, variab) {
		north = (coord$x>=d[1])
		east = (coord$y>=d[2])
		south = (coord$x<=d[1])
		west = (coord$y<=d[2])
		return( mean( c(
			(diff(sapply(variab[(north & east),], sum)))^2,
			(diff(sapply(variab[(south & east),], sum)))^2,
			(diff(sapply(variab[(south & west),], sum)))^2,
			(diff(sapply(variab[(north & west),], sum)))^2
			) )
	}, dat[,c("x","y")], dat[,c("var1","var2")])

	# Compute the statistic (i.e. sum of mean squared differences)

# Get data online : http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/1047321/syrjala_data_cod.csv
system("curl http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/1047321/syrjala_data_cod.csv >  

dataCod = read.csv(file = "syrjala_data_cod.csv", header = TRUE)

# Normalize abundances
dataCod$var1 = dataCod$var1/sum(dataCod$var1)
dataCod$var2 = dataCod$var2/sum(dataCod$var2)

# Number of permutations
nperm = 1000

# Create nperm-1 replicates of the data (one is the original  
d = rep(list(dataCod), nperm-1)

# Compute number of observations before to avoid doing that for every  
n = nrow(dataCod)

# Permute some observations and compute the syrjala stat for each  
psis = ldply(d, .fun=function(x, n){
	# choose indices of observations to swap
	idx = sample(1:n, runif(1, min=1, max=n))
	# swap observations
	x[idx, 3:4] = x[idx, 4:3]
	# compute syrjala stat
}, n, .progress="text")

# Compute the syrjala stat for the observations
psi = syrjala.stat(dataCod)

# Estimate the pvalue
pvalue = (sum(psis>=psi)+1)/nperm

# Should be:
# statistic	= 0.224
# p-value	= 0.1900

Thank you very much in advance. Sincerely,


[1] A statistical test for a difference between the spatial  
distributions of two populations. Syrjala SE. Ecology. 1996;77(1):75–80.

[2] https://stat.ethz.ch/pipermail/r-sig-geo/2008-February/ 

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