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An evaluation of mapped species distribution models used for conservation planning

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 August 2005

CHRIS J. JOHNSON
Affiliation:
Ecosystem Science and Management Program, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, British Columbia, V2N 4Z9, Canada
MICHAEL P. GILLINGHAM
Affiliation:
Ecosystem Science and Management Program, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, British Columbia, V2N 4Z9, Canada

Abstract

The widespread use of spatial planning tools in conjunction with increases in the availability of geographic information systems and associated data has led to the rapid growth in the exploration and application of species distribution models. Conservation professionals can choose from a considerable number of modelling techniques, but there has been relatively little evaluation of predictive performance, data requirements, or type of inference of these models. Empirical data for woodland caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou was used to examine four species distribution models, namely a qualitative habitat suitability index and quantitative resource selection function, Mahalanobis distance and ecological niche models. Models for three sets of independent variables were developed and then a temporally independent set of caribou locations evaluated predictive performance. The similarity of species distribution maps among the four modelling approaches was also quantified. All of the quantitative species distribution models were good predictors of the validation data set, but the spatial distribution of mapped habitats differed considerably among models. These results suggest that choice of model and variable set could influence the identification of areas for conservation emphasis. Model choice may be limited by the type of species locations or desired inference. Conservation professionals should choose a model and variable set based on the question, the ecology of the species and the availability of requisite data.

Type
Papers
Copyright
2005 Foundation for Environmental Conservation

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