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The impact of modelling method selection on predicted extent and distribution of deep-sea benthic assemblages

  • Nils Piechaud (a1), Anna Downie (a2), Heather A. Stewart (a3) and Kerry L. Howell (a1)

Abstract

Predictive modelling of deep-sea species and assemblages with multibeam acoustic datasets as input variables is now a key tool in the provision of maps upon which spatial planning and management of the marine environment can be based. However, with a multitude of methods available, advice is needed on the best methods for the task at hand. In this study, we predictively modelled the distribution and extent of three vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) at the assemblage level (‘Lophelia pertusa reef frameworks’; ‘Stylasterids and lobose sponges’; and ‘Xenophyophore fields’) on the eastern flank of Rockall Bank, using three modelling methods: MaxEnt; RandomForests classification with multiple assemblages (gRF); and RandomForests classification with the presence/absence of a single VME (saRF). Performance metrics indicated that MaxEnt performed the best, but all models were considered valid. All three methods broadly agreed with regard to broad patterns in distribution. However, predicted extent presented a variation of up to 35 % between the different methods, and clear differences in predicted distribution were observed. We conclude that the choice of method is likely to influence the results of predicted maps, potentially impacting political decisions about deep-sea VME conservation.

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The impact of modelling method selection on predicted extent and distribution of deep-sea benthic assemblages

  • Nils Piechaud (a1), Anna Downie (a2), Heather A. Stewart (a3) and Kerry L. Howell (a1)

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