Author(s): Antoine Guisan, Niklaus E Zimmermann
With the rise of new powerful statistical techniques and GIS tools, the development of predictive habitat distribution models has rapidly increased in ecology. Such models are static and probabilistic in nature, since they statistically relate the geographical distribution of species or communities to their present environment. A wide array of models has been developed to cover aspects as diverse as biogeography, conservation biology, climate change research, and habitat or species management. In this paper, we present a review of predictive habitat distribution modeling. The variety of statistical techniques used is growing. Ordinary multiple regression and its generalized form (GLM) are very popular and are often used for modeling species distributions. Other methods include neural networks, ordination and classification methods, Bayesian models, locally weighted approaches (e.g. GAM), environmental envelopes or even combinations of these models. The selection of an appropriate method should not depend solely on statistical considerations. Some models are better suited to reflect theoretical findings on the shape and nature of the species’ response (or realized niche). Conceptual considerations include e.g. the trade-off between optimizing accuracy versus optimizing generality. In the field of static distribution modeling, the latter is mostly related to selecting appropriate predictor variables and to designing an appropriate procedure for model selection. New methods, including threshold-independent measures (e.g. receiver operating characteristic (ROC)-plots) and resampling techniques (e.g. bootstrap, cross-validation) have been introduced in ecology for testing the accuracy of predictive models. The choice of an evaluation measure should be driven primarily by the goals of the study. This may possibly lead to the attribution of different weights to the various types of prediction errors (e.g. omission, commission or confusion). Testing the model in a wider range of situations (in space and time) will permit one to define the range of applications for which the model predictions are suitable. In turn, the qualification of the model depends primarily on the goals of the study that define the qualification criteria and on the usability of the model, rather than on statistics alone. © 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.