Journal article

How decisions about fitting species distribution models affect conservation outcomes

Angela Muscatello, Jane Elith, Heini Kujala



Species distribution models (SDMs) are increasingly used in conservation and land-use planning as inputs to describe biodiversity patterns. These models can be built in different ways, and decisions about data preparation, selection of predictor variables, model fitting, and evaluation all alter the resulting predictions. Commonly, the true distribution of species is unknown and independent data to verify which SDM variant to choose are lacking. Such model uncertainty is of concern to planners. We analyzed how 11 routine decisions about model complexity, predictors, bias treatment, and setting thresholds for predicted values altered conservation priority patterns across 25 species. Models we..

View full abstract


Awarded by Australian Research Centre Discovery Project

Awarded by Academy of Finland Strategic Research Council

Funding Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Australian Research Centre Discovery Project grant DP160101003. H.K. also acknowledges the support of Australian Commonwealth's National Environment Science Program through the Threatened Species Recovery Hub and the Academy of Finland Strategic Research Council project IBC-Carbon, grant 312559. We thank A. Whitehead, who compiled the original species data records and environmental variables, and J. J. Lahoz-Monfort for discussions on the topic. A.M. is grateful to those who supported her through the production of this article.