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Transferability and model evaluation in ecological niche modeling: a comparison of GARP and Maxent

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We compared predictive success in two common algorithms for modeling species’ ecological niches, GARP and Maxent, in a situation that challenged the algorithms to be general – that is, to be able to predict the species’ distributions in broad unsampled regions, here termed transferability. The results were strikingly different between the two algorithms – Maxent models reconstructed the overall distributions of the species at low thresholds, but higher predictive levels of Maxent predictions reflected overfitting to the input data; GARP models, on the other hand, succeeded in anticipating most of the species’ distributional potential, at the cost of increased (apparent, at least) commission error. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) tests were weak in discerning models able to predict into broad unsampled areas from those that were not. Such transferability is clearly a novel challenge for modeling algorithms, and requires different qualities than does predicting within densely sampled landscapes – in this case, Maxent was transferable only at very low thresholds, and biases and gaps in input data may frequently affect results based on higher Maxent thresholds, requiring careful interpretation of model results.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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