Predicting species distribution: offering more than simple habitat models

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Guisan, Antoine, Edwards, and Thullier, Wilfried

In the last two decades, interest in species distribution models (SDMs) of plants and animals has grown dramatically. Recent advances in SDMs allow us to potentially forecast anthropogenic effects on patterns of biodiversity at different spatial scales. However, some limitations still preclude the use of SDMs in many theoretical and practical applications. Here, we provide an overview of recent advances in this field, discuss the ecological principles and assumptions underpinning SDMs, and highlight critical limitations and decisions inherent in the construction and evaluation of SDMs. Particular emphasis is given to the use of SDMs for the assessment of climate change impacts and conservation management issues. We suggest new avenues for incorporating species migration, population dynamics, biotic interactions and community ecology into SDMs at multiple spatial scales. Addressing all these issues requires a better integration of SDMs with ecological theory.


Guisan, A., and W. Thuiller. 2005. Predicting species distribution: offering more than simple habitat models. Ecology Letters 8:993–1009.