Issues with modelling the current and future distribution of invasive pathogens

Authors

  • Kris A. Murray,

    Corresponding author
    1. The Ecology Centre, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
      Correspondence author. E-mail: k.murray1@uq.edu.au
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  • Richard W. R. Retallick,

    1. GHD Pty Ltd, 8/180 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia
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  • Robert Puschendorf,

    1. School of Marine and Tropical Biology, Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change Research, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
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  • Lee F. Skerratt,

    1. School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
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  • Dan Rosauer,

    1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia
    2. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia
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  • Hamish I. McCallum,

    1. School of Environment, Griffith University, Nathan Campus, Queensland 4111, Australia
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  • Lee Berger,

    1. School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
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  • Rick Speare,

    1. School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
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  • Jeremy VanDerWal

    1. School of Marine and Tropical Biology, Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change Research, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
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Correspondence author. E-mail: k.murray1@uq.edu.au

Summary

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.

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