Finessing atlas data for species distribution models

A. Niamir, A.K. Skidmore, A.G. Toxopeus, A.R. Munoz, R. Real

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Aim The spatial resolution of species atlases and therefore resulting model predictions are often too coarse for local applications. Collecting distribution data at a finer resolution for large numbers of species requires a comprehensive sampling effort, making it impractical and expensive. This study outlines the incorporation of existing knowledge into a conventional approach to predict the distribution of Bonelli's eagle (Aquila fasciata) at a resolution 100 times finer than available atlas data. Location Malaga province, Andalusia, southern Spain. Methods A Bayesian expert system was proposed to utilize the knowledge from distribution models to yield the probability of a species being recorded at a finer resolution (1×1km) than the original atlas data (10×10km). The recorded probability was then used as a weight vector to generate a sampling scheme from the species atlas to enhance the accuracy of the modelling procedure. The maximum entropy for species distribution modelling (MaxEnt) was used as the species distribution model. A comparison was made between the results of the MaxEnt using the enhanced and, the random sampling scheme, based on four groups of environmental variables: topographic, climatic, biological and anthropogenic. Results The models with the sampling scheme enhanced by an expert system had a higher discriminative capacity than the baseline models. The downscaled (i.e. finer scale) species distribution maps using a hybrid MaxEnt/expert system approach were more specific to the nest locations and were more contrasted than those of the baseline model. Main conclusions The proposed method is a feasible substitute for comprehensive field work. The approach developed in this study is applicable for predicting the distribution of Bonelli's eagle at a local scale from a national-level occurrence data set; however, the usefulness of this approach may be limited to well-known species
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1173-1185
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • eagle hieraaetus-fasciatus
  • large-scale distribution
  • bonellis eagle
  • expert-system
  • spatial autocorrelation
  • breeding performance
  • statistical-models
  • aquila-fasciata
  • sample-size
  • conservation

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