1. Correlative species distribution models can be used to produce spatially explicit estimates of environmental suitability for organisms. This process can provide meaningful information for a range of purposes (e.g. estimating a species’ current or future distribution, estimating dispersal limits, predicting occupancy for conservation planning) but, like all statistical exercises, is subject to numerous assumptions and can be influenced by several sources of potential bias.
2. In this issue of Journal of Applied Ecology, we (Murray et al. 2011) employ a correlative species distribution model for infection with the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), cause of amphibian chytridiomycosis, to derive useful information for the immediate management and research of this pathogen in Australia. Also in this issue, Rohr, Halstead & Raffel (2011) comment on some of the potential limitations of our approach and the value of our results in practice.
3. Synthesis and applications. Here we show that while a focus on mechanisms of dispersal and transmission among hosts, as advocated in both studies, is an important objective for modelling Bd distribution under climate change or at invasion fronts, correlative models can be of immediate value for their ability to generate a baseline hypothesis about the current potential distribution of this lethal pathogen and for efficiently identifying gaps in current knowledge. As demonstrated in our paper, this should help improve the immediate allocation of limited research and management resources for future surveillance efforts and proactive species conservation.