Aim The method used to generate hypotheses about species distributions, in addition to spatial scale, may affect the biodiversity patterns that are then observed. We compared the performance of range maps and MaxEnt species distribution models at different spatial resolutions by examining the degree of similarity between predicted species richness and composition against observed values from well-surveyed cells (WSCs).
Methods We estimated amphibian richness distributions at five spatial resolutions (from 0.083° to 2°) by overlaying 370 individual range maps or MaxEnt predictions, comparing the similarity of the spatial patterns and correlating predicted values with the observed values for WSCs. Additionally, we looked at species composition and assessed commission and omission errors associated with each method.
Results MaxEnt predictions reveal greater geographic differences in richness between species rich and species poor regions than the range maps did at the five resolutions assessed. Correlations between species richness values estimated by either of the two procedures and the observed values from the WSCs increased with decreasing resolution. The slopes of the regressions between the predicted and observed values indicate that MaxEnt overpredicts observed species richness at all of the resolutions used, while range maps underpredict them, except at the finest resolution. Prediction errors did not vary significantly between methods at any resolution and tended to decrease with decreasing resolution. The accuracy of both procedures was clearly different when commission and omission errors were examined separately.
Main conclusions Despite the congruent increase in the geographic richness patterns obtained from both procedures as resolution decreases, the maps created with these methods cannot be used interchangeably because of notable differences in the species compositions they report.