Improving area of occupancy estimates for parapatric species using distribution models and support vector machines

Jamie M. Kass, Sarah I. Meenan, Nicolás Tinoco, Santiago F. Burneo, Robert P. Anderson

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22 Citas (Scopus)


As geographic range estimates for the IUCN Red List guide conservation actions, accuracy and ecological realism are crucial. IUCN’s extent of occurrence (EOO) is the general region including the species’ range, while area of occupancy (AOO) is the subset of EOO occupied by the species. Data-poor species with incomplete sampling present particular difficulties, but species distribution models (SDMs) can be used to predict suitable areas. Nevertheless, SDMs typically employ abiotic variables (i.e., climate) and do not explicitly account for biotic interactions that can impose range constraints. We sought to improve range estimates for data-poor, parapatric species by masking out areas under inferred competitive exclusion. We did so for two South American spiny pocket mice: Heteromys australis (Least Concern) and Heteromys teleus (Vulnerable due to especially poor sampling), whose ranges appear restricted by competition. For both species, we estimated EOO using SDMs and AOO with four approaches: occupied grid cells, abiotic SDM prediction, and this prediction masked by approximations of the areas occupied by each species’ congener. We made the masks using support vector machines (SVMs) fit with two data types: occurrence coordinates alone; and coordinates along with SDM predictions of suitability. Given the uncertainty in calculating AOO for low-data species, we made estimates for the lower and upper bounds for AOO, but only make recommendations for H. teleus as its full known range was considered. The SVM approaches (especially the second one) had lower classification error and made more ecologically realistic delineations of the contact zone. For H. teleus, the lower AOO bound (a strongly biased underestimate) corresponded to Endangered (occupied grid cells), while the upper bounds (other approaches) led to Near Threatened. As we currently lack data to determine the species’ true occupancy within the post-processed SDM prediction, we recommend that an updated listing for H. teleus include these bounds for AOO. This study advances methods for estimating the upper bound of AOO and highlights the need for better ways to produce unbiased estimates of lower bounds. More generally, the SVM approaches for post-processing SDM predictions hold promise for improving range estimates for other uses in biogeography and conservation.

Idioma originalInglés
Número de artículoe02228
PublicaciónEcological Applications
EstadoPublicada - 24 sep. 2020

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© 2020 The Authors. Ecological Applications published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Ecological Society of America


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