Standards for data and models in biodiversity assessments

Prof. Miguel Araújo1, Dr. Robert Anderson, Dr. Márcia Barbosa, Dr. Colin Beale, Dr. Carsten Dormann, Dr. Regan Early, Dr. Raquel Garcia, Prof. Antoine Guisan, Dr. Luigi Maiorano, Dr. Babak Naimi, Prof. Bob O’Hara, Prof. Nick Zimmermann, Prof.  Carsten Rahbek

1MNCN-CSIC, Madrid, Spain, 2University of Évora, Évora, Portugal

Demand for data and models in biodiversity assessments is rising, but which data and models are adequate for the task is still open to question. Following well established applied disciplines, such as medicine and engineering, where significant efforts are made to minimise the risks of error, 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 then reviewed and scored 400 modelling 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 the biological data and model evaluation procedures.

We argue that implementation of agreed-upon standards for models in biodiversity assessments will promote transparency and repeatability, eventually leading to higher quality of the models and the inferences used in assessments. We encourage broad community participation towards the expansion and ongoing development of the proposed standards and guidelines.


Miguel B. Araújo obtained an MSc in Conservation (1996) and a PhD in Geography (2000), both from the University College London. He is a Research Professor of the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. He is also Visiting Professor at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Évora, while keeping a honorary position at the Imperial College London. In the past, he held faculty or research positions at the Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, the CNRS, and the Natural History Museum in London.

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