Comparison of five methods for parameter estimation under Taylor's power law

Peijian Shi, David A. Ratkowsky, Ningtao Wang, Yang Li, Lei Zhao, Gadi V.P. Reddy, Bai Lian Li

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18 Scopus citations


Taylor's power law (TPL) can be applied to the mean-variance relationship for various quantities, e.g., population densities over space and time, biomass of plants in the growth processes, developmental rates and growth rates of arthropods at different temperatures, etc. When TPL holds in the grouped data (e.g., the biomass of plants at different investigation times with limited replicates at each investigation), we must consider the heterocedasticity when carrying out the parameter estimation for a given mathematical model. We propose two new target functions based on TPL and attempt to more accurately estimate the model parameter(s). By capturing the mean-variance relationship, the accuracy of parameter estimation and the power of hypothesis testing are improved compared to the traditional methods which assume homogeneous variance. Five approaches, including ordinary least squares (OLS), chi-squared (χ2), weighted least squares (WLS), psi-squared (ψ2) and maximum likelihood estimation (MLE), are compared under both linear and nonlinear scenarios regarding the prediction accuracy using both computer simulations and experimental data. We further simulate irregular measurements on the predictors to examine the robustness of parameter estimation. In computer simulations, psi-squared, WLS, and MLE outperform OLS and chi-squared with respect to parameter estimation. In the simulation study of irregular measurements, psi-squared and MLE outperform WLS when the sample mean is smaller than the population mean. On the other hand, WLS outperforms psi-squared and MLE when the sample mean is larger than the population mean. Psi-squared has an advantage over MLE when large irregular deviations are present. This study strongly suggests using psi-squared and WLS in place of OLS or chi-squared for both linear and nonlinear regressions, the choice of method depending on the observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-130
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Complexity
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Prof. Hsin-i Wu for his valuable help for commenting on the earlier version of this manuscript. We are also thankful to Sergei V. Petrovskii and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. In addition, we thank Profs. Fangsen Xue, Gerdien de Jong, and Xingyuan Men for providing us with the experimental data. P. Shi was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31400348 ), and the PAPD of Jiangsu Province . This material is also partly based upon work that is supported to G.V.P. Reddy by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hatch project under Accession (No. 1009746 ). B.-L. Li was supported by University of California Agricultural Experimental Station . There are no conflicts of interest among the authors of this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Measurement error
  • Nonlinear regression
  • Statistical modeling
  • Taylor's power law


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