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Testing climate-based species distribution models with recent field surveys of pond-breeding amphibians in eastern Missouri

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Species distribution models (SDMs) have become an important tool for ecologists by providing the ability to predict the distributions of organisms based on species niche parameters and available habitat across broad geographic areas. However, investigation of the appropriate extent of environmental data needed to make accurate predictions has received limited attention. We investigate whether SDMs developed with regional climate and species locality data (i.e., within Missouri, USA) produce more accurate predictions of species occurrences than models developed with data from across an entire species range. To test the accuracy of the model predictions, field surveys were performed in 2007 and 2008 at 103 study ponds for eight amphibian study species. Models developed using data from across the entire species range did not accurately predict the occurrences of any study species. However, models developed using data only from Missouri produced accurate predictions for four study species, all of which are near the edge of their geographic ranges within the study area. These results suggest that species distribution modeling with regionally focused data may be preferable for local ecological and conservation purposes, and that climate factors may be more important for determining species distributions at the edge of their geographic ranges.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Saint Louis University, Department of Biology, 3507 Laclede Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63103, USA. 2: Washington University in Saint Louis, Department of Biology, Campus Box 1137, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.

Publication date: November 26, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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