Species Distribution Modelling Supports the Study of Past, Present and Future Biogeographies


Abstract Species distribution modelling (SDM), also called environmental or ecological niche modelling, has developed over the last 30,years as a widely used tool used in core areas of biogeography including historical biogeography, studies of diversity patterns, studies of species ranges, ecoregional classification, conservation assessment and projecting future global change impacts. In the 50th anniversary year of Journal of Biogeography , I reflect on developments in species distribution modelling, illustrate how embedded the methodology has become in all areas of biogeography and speculate on future directions in the field. Challenges to species distribution modelling raised in this journal in 2006 have been addressed to a significant degree. Those challenges are clarification of the niche concept; improved sample design for species occurrence data; model parameterization; predictor selection; assessing model performance and transferability; and integrating correlative and process models of species distributions. SDM is used, often in conjunction with other evidence, to understand past species range dynamics, identify patterns and drivers of biological diversity, identify drivers of species range limits, define and delineate ecoregions, estimate the distributions of biodiversity elements in relation to protected status and to prioritize conservation action, and to forecast species range shifts in response to climate change and other global change scenarios. Areas of progress in SDM that may become more widely accessible and useful tools in biogeography include genetically informed models and community distribution models.

Journal of Biogeography
Janet Franklin
Janet Franklin
Campanile Endowed Chair

My research interests include Landscape Ecology, Global Change Biology, Conservation Biogeography, and Geospatial Science.