Verifying the Ability of Environmental Niche Models to Predict Species' Niche Response to Climate Change

By Marshall J. Heap.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: December 22, 2015 Free Download

The credibility of Environmental Niche Model (ENM) computed species' distributions is dependent on their verifiability. This study reviews the limited efforts to 'ground-truth' climate change predictions reported on to date. Mountainous areas are a particular challenge: first, because they often host high biodiversity; and second, because ENM predictions tend to be the least accurate for the reasons noted. 'Ground-truth' plant species occurrence data from three mountainous areas within the Euro-Mediterranean area were analysed. The extent that 'terrain ruggedness' might have impaired ENM predictions was also explored. MAXENT ENM results obtained were mixed. MAXENT successfully corroborated independent observations of flora species in the Guadarrama mountains and a positive correlation between MAXENT probability change and species coverage change was also observed. Results for the Jura mountains and Swiss Alps regions were less convincing. The need to maximise the average year of observation between the two time periods considered was highlighted, as was the need to increase the spatial resolution of the ENMs to mitigate error due to terrain ruggedness. Other error sources noted included; imprecise spatial coordinates of permanent plots, variation in abundance estimation, variations between field observers and regional variations in the accuracy of climatic data variables used by the MAXENT models.

Keywords: MAXENT Environmental Niche Models, Climate change, Plant Species, Ground-truth

International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 8, Issue 1, March 2016, pp.51-60. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: December 22, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 630.182KB)).

Dr. Marshall J. Heap

Visiting Scholar, The Institute for Genomic Biology, The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, USA; PhD Graduate, Centre for Plant Diversity and Systematics, Plant Science Laboratories, School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Berkshire, UK, USA


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