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Sensitivity of predictive species distribution models to change in grain size

Authors

  • Antoine Guisan,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland;
      *Correspondence: Antoine Guisan, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. Fax: +41 21 692 42 65; E-mail: antoine.guisan@unil.ch
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  • Catherine H. Graham,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, 650 Life Sciences Building, Stony Brook University, NY 11794, USA;
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  • Jane Elith,

    1. School of Botany, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, 3010 Australia;
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  • Falk Huettmann,

    1. EWHALE Lab — Biology and Wildlife Department, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000, USA
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  • the NCEAS Species Distribution Modelling Group

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    • Miro Dudik, Simon Ferrier, Robert Hijmans, Anthony Lehmann, Jin Li, Lúcia G. Lohmann, Bette Loiselle, Glenn Manion, Craig Moritz, Miguel Nakamura, Yoshinori Nakazawa, Jacob McC. Overton, A. Townsend Peterson, Steven J. Phillips, Karen Richardson, Ricardo Scachetti-Pereira, Robert E. Schapire, Stephen E. Williams, Mary S. Wisz, Niklaus E. Zimmermann


*Correspondence: Antoine Guisan, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. Fax: +41 21 692 42 65; E-mail: antoine.guisan@unil.ch

ABSTRACT

Predictive species distribution modelling (SDM) has become an essential tool in biodiversity conservation and management. The choice of grain size (resolution) of environmental layers used in modelling is one important factor that may affect predictions. We applied 10 distinct modelling techniques to presence-only data for 50 species in five different regions, to test whether: (1) a 10-fold coarsening of resolution affects predictive performance of SDMs, and (2) any observed effects are dependent on the type of region, modelling technique, or species considered. Results show that a 10 times change in grain size does not severely affect predictions from species distribution models. The overall trend is towards degradation of model performance, but improvement can also be observed. Changing grain size does not equally affect models across regions, techniques, and species types. The strongest effect is on regions and species types, with tree species in the data sets (regions) with highest locational accuracy being most affected. Changing grain size had little influence on the ranking of techniques: boosted regression trees remain best at both resolutions. The number of occurrences used for model training had an important effect, with larger sample sizes resulting in better models, which tended to be more sensitive to grain. Effect of grain change was only noticeable for models reaching sufficient performance and/or with initial data that have an intrinsic error smaller than the coarser grain size.

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