Integrating Anthropogenic Factors into Regional-Scale Species Distribution Models

Release Date:

Species distribution models help researchers explore how environmental conditions influence the spatial pattern of species occurrence over large areas.

These models typically rely on regional-scale environmental variables, yet local-scale variables, including wildfire history and land-use change, can override regional-scale variables to drive patterns of species distribution. Boise State University and USGS researchers investigated whether including human-induced factors – fire history and ecological restoration treatments – to predict big sagebrush occurrence and cover improves the fit of the predictive model. Models including fire attributes and restoration treatments performed better than those including only climate and topographic variables. Models showed that the probability of big sagebrush occurrence decreases by 1.2 percent and big sagebrush cover decreases by 44.7 percent if at least one fire occurred over a 35-year period of record. Restoration practices increased the probability of big sagebrush occurrence but had minimal effect on cover. Their results demonstrate the value of including disturbance history and land management along with climate in models to predict species distributions.

Requena-Mullor, J.M., Maguire, K.C., Shinneman, D.J., Caughlin, T., 2019, Integrating anthropogenic factors into regional-scale species distribution models — a novel application in the imperiled sagebrush biome: Global Change Biology, https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14728