We have a new paper in the journal Ecology Letters that discusses how species distribution models can contribute to conservation decision-making. It is the result of a series of workshops in which I participated in 2012 and 2013, involving experts in species distribution modelling and in conservation decision-making from Australia and overseas, and led by Antoine Guisan (University of Lausanne, Switzerland).
Conservation science has made significant progress in developing an applied arm that helps managers make better decisions. At the same time, the field of species distribution modelling has developed a set of tools with many potential conservation applications. Despite the ability of species distribution models to inform decisions, we find little ‘real-world’ evidence for this happening.
We use case studies from biological invasions (e.g. pre- and post-border weed risk assessments in Australia), identification of critical habitats, reserve selection and translocation of endangered species, to propose that SDMs may be tailored to suit a range of decision-making contexts when used within a structured and transparent decision-making process. We suggest that modellers need to better understand the decision process, and decision makers need to provide feedback to modellers regarding the actual use of SDMs to support conservation decisions.