Not So Normal Normals: Species Distribution Model Results are Sensitive to Choice of Climate Normals and Model Types

Short Description

Not so NormalSpecies distribution models have many applications in conservation and ecology, and climate data are frequently a key driver of these models. Often, correlative modeling approaches are developed with readily available climate data; however, the impacts of the choice of climate normals is rarely considered. Here, we produced species distribution models for five disparate species using four different modeling algorithms and compared results between two different, but overlapping, climate normals time periods. Although the correlation structure among climate predictors did not change between the time periods, model results were sensitive to both baseline climate period and model method, even with model parameters specifically tuned to a species. Each species and each model type had at least one difference in variable retention or relative ranking with the change in climate time period. Pairwise comparisons of spatial predictions were also different, ranging from a low of 1.6% for climate period differences to a high of 25% for algorithm differences. While uncertainty from model algorithm selection is recognized as an important source of uncertainty, the impact of climate period is not commonly assessed. These uncertainties may affect conservation decisions, especially when projecting to future climates, and should be evaluated during model development.

Related Partners

The USGS serves the Nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

Suggested Citation

Jarnevich, C., & Young, N. (2019). Not so Normal Normals: Species Distribution Model Results are Sensitive to Choice of Climate Normals and Model Type. Climate7(3), 37. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cli7030037