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Regional models do not outperform continental models for invasive species

October 4, 2022

Aim: Species distribution models can guide invasive species prevention and management by characterizing invasion risk across space. However, extrapolation and transferability issues pose challenges for developing useful models for invasive species. Previous work has emphasized the importance of including all available occurrences in model estimation, but managers attuned to local processes may be skeptical of models based on a broad spatial extent if they suspect the captured responses reflect those of other regions where data are more numerous. We asked whether species distribution models for invasive plants performed better when developed at national versus regional extents.

Location: Continental United States.

Methods: We developed ensembles of species distribution models trained nationally, on sagebrush habitat, or on sagebrush habitat within three ecoregions (Great Basin, eastern sagebrush, and Great Plains) for nine invasive plants of interest for early detection and rapid response at local or regional scales. We compared the performance of national versus regional models using spatially independent withheld test data from each of the three ecoregions.

Results: We found that models trained using a national spatial extent tended to perform better than regionally trained models. Regional models did not outperform national ones even when considerable occurrence data were available for model estimation within the focal region. Information was often unavailable to fit informative regional models precisely in those areas of greatest interest for early detection and rapid response.

Main conclusions: Habitat suitability models for invasive plant species trained at a continental extent can reduce extrapolation while maximizing information on species’ responses to environmental variation. Standard modeling methods can capture spatially varying limiting factors, while regional or hierarchical models may only be advantageous when populations differ in their responses to environmental conditions, a condition expected to be relatively rare at the expanding boundaries of invasive species’ distributions.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Regional models do not outperform continental models for invasive species
DOI 10.3897/neobiota.77.86364
Authors Catherine S. Jarnevich, Helen Sofaer, Peder Engelstad, Pairsa Belamaric
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title NeoBiota
Index ID 70238634
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center