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Updating bird species distribution at large spatial scales: applications of habitat modelling to data from long-term monitoring programs

Authors

  • Lluís Brotons,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre Tecnològic Forestal de Catalunya, Àrea de Biodiversitat, Pujada del Seminari s/n, 25280 Solsona, Spain,
    2. Institut Català d’Ornitologia, Museu de Zoologia, Passeig Picasso s/n, 08003 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
      *Correspondence: Lluís Brotons, Centre Tecnològic Forestal de Catalunya, Àrea de Biodiversitat, Pujada del Seminari s/n, 25280 Solsona, Spain. E-mail: lluis.brotons@ctfc.es
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  • Sergi Herrando,

    1. Institut Català d’Ornitologia, Museu de Zoologia, Passeig Picasso s/n, 08003 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
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  • Magda Pla

    1. Centre Tecnològic Forestal de Catalunya, Àrea de Biodiversitat, Pujada del Seminari s/n, 25280 Solsona, Spain,
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*Correspondence: Lluís Brotons, Centre Tecnològic Forestal de Catalunya, Àrea de Biodiversitat, Pujada del Seminari s/n, 25280 Solsona, Spain. E-mail: lluis.brotons@ctfc.es

ABSTRACT

Mapping of species distributions at large spatial scales has been often based on the representation of gathered observations in a general grid atlas framework. More recently, subsampling and subsequent interpolation or habitat spatial modelling techniques have been incorporated in these projects to allow more detailed species mapping. Here, we explore the usefulness of data from long-term monitoring (LTM) projects, primarily aimed at estimating trends in species abundance and collected at shorter time intervals (usually yearly) than atlas data, to develop predictive habitat models. We modelled habitat occupancy for 99 species using a bird LTM program and evaluated the predictive accuracy of these models using independent data from a contemporary and comprehensive breeding bird atlas project from the same region. Habitat models from LTM data using generalized linear modelling were significant for all the species and generally showed a high predictive power, albeit lower than that from atlas models. Sample size and species range size and niche breadth were the most important factors behind variability in model predictive accuracy, whereas the spatial distribution of sampling units at a given sample size had minor effects. Although predictive accuracy of habitat modelling was strongly species dependent, increases in sample size and, secondarily, a better spatial distribution of sampling units should lead to more powerful predictive distribution models. We suggest that data from LTM programs, now established in a large number of countries, has the potential for being a major source of good quality data suitable for the estimation and regularly update of distributions at large spatial scales for a number of species.

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