The value of species distribution models as a tool for conservation and ecology in Egypt and Britain
Newbold, Tim (2010) The value of species distribution models as a tool for conservation and ecology in Egypt and Britain. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
Knowledge about the distribution of species is limited, with extensive gaps in our knowledge, particularly in tropical areas and in arid environments. Species distribution models offer a potentially very powerful tool for filling these gaps in our knowledge. They relate a set of recorded occurrences of a species to environmental variables thought to be important in determining the distributions of species, in order to predict where species will be found throughout an area of interest. In this thesis, I explore the development, potential applications and possible limitations of distribution models using species from various taxonomic groups in two regions of the world: butterflies, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in Egypt, and butterflies, hoverflies and birds in Great Britain. Specifically I test: 1) which modelling methods produce the best models; 2) which variables correlate best with the distributions of species, and in particular whether interactions among species can explain observed distributions; 3) whether the distributions of some species correlate better with environmental variables than others and whether this variation can be explained by ecological characteristics of the species; 4) whether the same environmental variables that explain species’ occurrence can also explain species richness, and whether distribution models can be combined to produce an accurate model of species richness; 5) whether the apparent accuracy of distribution models is supported by ground-truthing; and 6) whether the models can predict the impact of climate change on the distribution of species. Overall the use of distribution models is supported; my models for species in both Egypt and Britain explained observed occurrence very well. My results shed some light on factors that may be important in determining the distributions of species, particularly on the importance of interactions among species. As they currently stand, distribution models appear unable to predict accurately the impacts of climate change.
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