Ecological niche models in phylogeographic studies: applications, advances and precautions



The increased availability of spatial data and methodological developments in species distribution modelling has lead to concurrent advances in phylogeography, broadening the scope of questions studied, as well as providing unprecedented insights. Given the species-specific nature of the information provided by ecological niche models (ENMs), whether it is on the environmental tolerances of species or their estimated distribution, today or in the past, it is perhaps not surprising that ENMs have rapidly become a common tool in phylogeographic analysis. Such information is essential to phylogeographic tests that provide important biological insights. Here, we provide an overview of the different applications of ENMs in phylogeographic studies, detailing specific studies and highlighting general limitations and challenges with each application. Given that the full potential of integrating ENMs into phylogeographic cannot be realized unless the ENMs themselves are carefully applied, we provide a summary of best practices with using ENMs. Lastly, we describe some recent advances in how quantitative information from ENMs can be integrated into genetic analyses, illustrating their potential use (and key concerns with such implementations), as well as promising areas for future development.