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Sci Adv. 2019 Jan 16;5(1):eaat4858. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aat4858. eCollection 2019 Jan.

Standards for distribution models in biodiversity assessments.

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National Museum of Natural Sciences, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), 28006 Madrid, Spain.
Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.
Rui Nabeiro Biodiversity Chair, University of Évora, 7000 Évora, Portugal.
Department of Biology, City College of New York, New York, NY 10031, USA.
Program in Biology, Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY 10016, USA.
Division of Vertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024, USA.
Department of Biology, University of York, York YO19 5PR, UK.
Biometry and Environmental System Analysis, University of Freiburg, D-79106 Freiburg, Germany.
Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9FE, UK.
Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland 7602, South Africa.
Centre for Statistics in Ecology, Environment and Conservation (SEEC), University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch, 7701 Cape Town, South Africa.
Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Department of Biology and Biotechnologies Charles Darwin, University of Rome La Sapienza, Rome, Italy.
Department of Integrative Marine Ecology, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Naples, Italy.
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt, Germany.
Landscape Dynamics, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland.
Department of Mathematical Sciences and Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, NTNU, 7491 Trondheim, Norway.
Environmental Systems Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH, Zürich, Switzerland.
Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Silwood Park, Ascot SL5 7PY, UK.


Demand for models in biodiversity assessments is rising, but which models are adequate for the task? We propose a set of best-practice standards and detailed guidelines enabling scoring of studies based on species distribution models for use in biodiversity assessments. We reviewed and scored 400 modeling studies over the past 20 years using the proposed standards and guidelines. We detected low model adequacy overall, but with a marked tendency of improvement over time in model building and, to a lesser degree, in biological data and model evaluation. We argue that implementation of agreed-upon standards for models in biodiversity assessments would promote transparency and repeatability, eventually leading to higher quality of the models and the inferences used in assessments. We encourage broad community participation toward the expansion and ongoing development of the proposed standards and guidelines.

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