Comparing species distributions modelled from occurrence data and from expert-based range maps. Implication for predicting range shifts with climate change

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Fourcade, Yoan
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Species range and climate change risk are often assessed using species distribution models (SDM) that model species niche from presence points and environmental variables and project it in space and time. These presence points frequently originate from occurrence data downloaded from public biodiversity databases, but such data are known to suffer from high biases. There is thus a need to find alternative sources of information to train these models. In this regard, expert-based range maps such as those provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have the potential to be used as a source of species presence in a SDM workflow. Here, I compared the predictions of SDM built using true occurrences provided by GBIF or iNaturalist, or using pseudo-occurrences sampled from IUCN expert-based range maps, in current and future climate. I found that the agreement between both types of SDM did not depend on the spatial resolution of environmental data but instead were affected by the number of points sampled from range maps and even more by the spatial congruence between input data. A strong agreement between occurrence data and range maps resulted in very similar SDM outputs, which suggests that expert knowledge can be a valuable alternative source of data to feed SDM and assess potential range shifts when the only available occurrences are biased or fragmentary.


Fourcade, Yoan. 2016. “Comparing Species Distributions Modelled from Occurrence Data and from Expert-Based Range Maps. Implication for Predicting Range Shifts with Climate Change.” Ecological Informatics 36 (November): 8–14. doi:10.1016/j.ecoinf.2016.09.002.