Guillera-Arroita G, JJ Lahoz-Monfort, J Elith, A Gordon, H Kujala, PE Lentini, MA McCarthy, R Tingley and BA Wintle (2015) Is my species distribution model fit for purpose? Matching data and models to applications. GLOBAL ECOLOGY AND BIOGEOGRAPHY (In Press)

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Species distribution models (SDMs) are used to inform a range of ecological,
biogeographical and conservation applications. However, users often underestimate
the strong links between data type, model output and suitability for end-use. We
synthesize current knowledge and provide a simple framework that summarizes how
interactions between data type and the sampling process (i.e., imperfect detection and
sampling bias) determine the quantity that is estimated by an SDM. We then draw
upon the published literature and simulations to illustrate and evaluate the information
needs of the most common ecological, biogeographical and conservation applications
of SDM outputs. We find that, while predictions of models fitted to the most
commonly available observation data (presence records) suffice for some
applications, others require estimates of occurrence probabilities, which are
unattainable without reliable absence records. Our literature review and simulations
reveal that, while converting continuous SDM outputs into categories of assumed
presence or absence is common practice, it is seldom clearly justified by the
application?s objective and it usually degrades inference. Matching SDMs to the
needs of particular applications is critical to avoid poor scientific inference and
management outcomes. Our paper aims to help modellers and users assess whether
their intended SDM outputs are indeed fit for purpose.