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Dealing with uncertain absences in habitat modelling: a case study of a rare ground-dwelling parrot
Article first published online: 1 JUN 2007
Diversity and Distributions
Volume 13, Issue 6, pages 704–713, November 2007
How to Cite
Gibson, L., Barrett, B. and Burbidge, A. (2007), Dealing with uncertain absences in habitat modelling: a case study of a rare ground-dwelling parrot. Diversity and Distributions, 13: 704–713. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2007.00365.x
- Issue published online: 1 JUN 2007
- Article first published online: 1 JUN 2007
- Akaike Information Criterion (AIC);
- generalized linear model (GLM);
- western ground parrot;
- presence-only data;
- species distribution models
In the development of a species distribution model based on regression techniques such as generalized linear or additive modelling (GLM/GAM), a basic assumption is that records of species presence and absence are real. However, a common concern in many studies examining species distributions is that absences cannot be inferred with certainty. This is particularly the case where the species is rare, difficult to detect and/or does not occupy all available habitat considered suitable. The western ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus flaviventris) of southern Western Australia, Australia, is a case in point, as not only is it rare and difficult to detect, but it is also unlikely to occupy all available suitable habitat. A recent survey of ground parrots provided the opportunity to develop a predictive distribution model. As the data were susceptible to false absences, these were replaced with randomly selected ‘pseudo’ absences and modelled using GLM. As a comparison, presence-only information was modelled using a relatively new approach, MAXENT, a machine-learning technique that has been shown to perform comparatively well. The predictive performance of both models, as assessed by the receiver operating characteristic plot (ROC) was high (AUC > 0.8), with MAXENT performing only marginally better than the GLM. These approaches both indicated that the ground parrot prefers areas relatively high in altitude, distant from rivers, gently sloping to level habitat, with an intermediate cover of vegetation and where there is a mosaic of vegetation ages. In this case, the use of presence-only information resulted in the identification of important environmental attributes defining the occurrence of the ground parrot, but additional factors that account for the inability of the bird to occupy all suitable habitat should be a component of model refinement.