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Licentiate thesis, 2011

Species distribution models

Hallstan, Simon


Species distribution models are a group of methods often used to estimate consequences of global change, to assess ecological status and for other ecological applications. The main idea behind species distribution models is that the geographical distributions of species can, to a large part, be explained by environmental factors and that species distributions therefore can be predicted in time or space. For robust and reliable applications, models need to be based on sound ecological principles, predictions need to be as accurate as possible, and model uncertainties need to be understood. Two approaches are available for modelling entire species communities: (1) each species can be modelled individually and independently of other species or (2) community information can be incorporated into the models. The first study in this thesis compares these two modelling approaches for predicting phytoplankton assemblages in lakes. The results showed that predictive accuracy was higher when species were modelled individually. The results also showed that phytoplankton can be used for model-based assessment of ecological status. This finding is important because phytoplankton is required for assessing the ecological status of European water bodies according to the European Water Framework Directive. Dispersal barriers in the landscape or limited dispersal ability of species might be a reason for species being absent from suitable habitats, and these factors might therefore affect model accuracy. The second study in this thesis examines the influence of dispersal and the spatial configuration of ecosystems on prediction accuracy of benthic invertebrate and phytoplankton distribution and assemblage composition. The results showed only a minor influence of spatial configuration and no effect of flight ability of invertebrates on model accuracy. However, the models used may partly account for dispersal constraints, since dispersal-related factors, such as lake surface area, are included as predictor variables. The result also showed that composition of littoral invertebrate assemblages was easier to predict at sites located in well-connected lake systems, possibly because the relatively unstable littoral zone necessitates a need for species to re-colonize disturbed habitats from source populations.


lic.-avh; biodiversity; species; phytoplankton; invertebrates; geographical distribution; population ecology; habitats; lakes; environmental impact assessment; models

Published in

ISBN: 978-91-576-9037-1
Publisher: Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment

Associated SLU-program

Lakes and watercourses
Use of FOMA data

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

URI (permanent link to this page)