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Finessing atlas data for species distribution models

Authors

  • Aidin Niamir,

    Corresponding author
    1. Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands
    2. The C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology and Resource Conservation, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 4, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
      Aidin Niamir, Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation, University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands.
      E-mail: niamir@itc.nl
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  • Andrew K. Skidmore,

    1. Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands
    2. The C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology and Resource Conservation, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 4, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
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  • Albertus G. Toxopeus,

    1. Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands
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  • Antonio R. Muñoz,

    1. Fundacion Migres, Huerta Grande, CN - 340 Km . 96 (Pelayo), 11390 Algeciras, Cadiz
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  • Raimundo Real

    1. Faculty of Science, University of Malaga, E-29071 Malaga, Spain
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Aidin Niamir, Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation, University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands.
E-mail: niamir@itc.nl

Abstract

Aim  The spatial resolution of species atlases and therefore resulting model predictions are often too coarse for local applications. Collecting distribution data at a finer resolution for large numbers of species requires a comprehensive sampling effort, making it impractical and expensive. This study outlines the incorporation of existing knowledge into a conventional approach to predict the distribution of Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata) at a resolution 100 times finer than available atlas data.

Location  Malaga province, Andalusia, southern Spain.

Methods  A Bayesian expert system was proposed to utilize the knowledge from distribution models to yield the probability of a species being recorded at a finer resolution (1 × 1 km) than the original atlas data (10 × 10 km). The recorded probability was then used as a weight vector to generate a sampling scheme from the species atlas to enhance the accuracy of the modelling procedure. The maximum entropy for species distribution modelling (MaxEnt) was used as the species distribution model. A comparison was made between the results of the MaxEnt using the enhanced and, the random sampling scheme, based on four groups of environmental variables: topographic, climatic, biological and anthropogenic.

Results  The models with the sampling scheme enhanced by an expert system had a higher discriminative capacity than the baseline models. The downscaled (i.e. finer scale) species distribution maps using a hybrid MaxEnt/expert system approach were more specific to the nest locations and were more contrasted than those of the baseline model.

Main conclusions  The proposed method is a feasible substitute for comprehensive field work. The approach developed in this study is applicable for predicting the distribution of Bonelli’s eagle at a local scale from a national-level occurrence data set; however, the usefulness of this approach may be limited to well-known species.

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