bioclim: the first species distribution modelling package, its early applications and relevance to most current MaxEnt studies




Interest in species distribution models (SDMs) and related niche studies has increased dramatically in recent years, with several books and reviews being prepared since 2000. The earliest SDM studies are dealt with only briefly even in the books. Consequently, many researchers are unaware of when the first SDM software package (bioclim) was developed and how a broad range of applications using the package was explored within the first 8 years following its release. The purpose of this study is to clarify these early developments and initial applications, as well as to highlight bioclim's continuing relevance to current studies.


Mainly Australia and New Zealand, but also some global applications.


We outline the development of the bioclim package, early applications (1984–1991) and its current relevance.


bioclim was the first SDM package to be widely used. Early applications explored many of the possible uses of SDMs in conservation biogeography, such as quantifying the environmental niche of species, identifying areas where a species might be invasive, assisting conservation planning and assessing the likely impacts of climate change on species distributions.

Main conclusions

Understanding this pioneering work is worthwhile as bioclim was for many years one of the leading SDM packages and remains widely used. Climate interpolation methods developed for bioclim were used to create the WorldClim database, the most common source of climate data for SDM studies, and bioclim variables are used in about 76% of recent published MaxEnt analyses of terrestrial ecosystems. Also, some of the bioclim studies from the late 1980s, such as measuring niche (both realized and fundamental) and assessing possible impacts of climate change, are still highly relevant to key conservation biogeography issues.