Towards an integrated computational tool for spatial analysis in macroecology and biogeography


*Correspondence: Thiago Fernando L. V. B. Rangel, Departamento de Biologia Geral, ICB, Universidade Federal de Goiás, CP 131, Goiânia, GO 74001-970, Brazil. E-mail:


Because most macroecological and biodiversity data are spatially autocorrelated, special tools for describing spatial structures and dealing with hypothesis testing are usually required. Unfortunately, most of these methods have not been available in a single statistical package. Consequently, using these tools is still a challenge for most ecologists and biogeographers. In this paper, we present sam (Spatial Analysis in Macroecology), a new, easy-to-use, freeware package for spatial analysis in macroecology and biogeography. Through an intuitive, fully graphical interface, this package allows the user to describe spatial patterns in variables and provides an explicit spatial framework for standard techniques of regression and correlation. Moran's I autocorrelation coefficient can be calculated based on a range of matrices describing spatial relationships, for original variables as well as for residuals of regression models, which can also include filtering components (obtained by standard trend surface analysis or by principal coordinates of neighbour matrices). sam also offers tools for correcting the number of degrees of freedom when calculating the significance of correlation coefficients. Explicit spatial modelling using several forms of autoregression and generalized least-squares models are also available. We believe this new tool will provide researchers with the basic statistical tools to resolve autocorrelation problems and, simultaneously, to explore spatial components in macroecological and biogeographical data. Although the program was designed primarily for the applications in macroecology and biogeography, most of sam's statistical tools will be useful for all kinds of surface pattern spatial analysis. The program is freely available at (permanent URL at