Modelling the spatial variation of vital rates: An evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of correlative species distribution models
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Diversity and Distribution, 2017, vol. 23, n. 8
John Wiley & Sons
Aim: Species distribution models based on breeding occurrence data allow for identifying both environmental drivers and geographic areas potentially relevant for breeding. However, the interpretation of model predictions in terms of reproductive performance should be further investigated, as this information is crucial for conservation planning. We evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of a correlative modelling approach based on breeding occurrence data (presence–absence) against another approach based on vital rates’ data (breeding success) for gaining insights on species persistence in the case of Great Bustards (Otis tarda). Location: Spain. Methods: Breeding occurrence and breeding success were independently modelled using generalized linear models and multimodel inference analyses. Sensitivities to the way in which the population parameter (breeding success) was defined were explored by building five versions of the dependent variable. We evaluated differences in model performance and identified areas of congruence for breeding occurrence and breeding success. Results: The agreement between the spatial predictions achieved by breeding occurrence and breeding success models differed substantially across databases, with the largest differences in occupied breeding areas. The deviance explained by the breeding occurrence model was 64.98% and ranged from 7.83% to 62.27% for the breeding success models. Model performance was higher for models calibrated within potential than within occupied breeding areas. Main conclusions: The combination of data on both breeding occurrence and breeding success into a species distribution modelling framework showed the limitations of breeding occurrence models for inferring reproductive parameters. The definition of the population parameter as dependent variable was a key factor that strongly affected the inference of vital rates’ models. The approach allowed for discriminating between areas and landscape attributes necessary for the long-term species persistence from others that may be relevant, but not so much for reproductive performance.
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