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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Challenges in supplying empirical proof for predictions derived from Species Distribution Models (SDMs): the case of an invasive cyanobacterium

Meriggi, Carlotta; Mehrshad, Maliheh; Johnson, Richard; Laugen, Ane T.; Drakare, Stina


Species distribution models (SDMs) calibrated with bioclimatic variables revealed a high probability for range expansion of the invasive toxin producing cyanobacterium, Raphidiopsis raciborskii to Sweden, where no reports of its presence have hitherto been recorded. While predictions focused on the importance of climate variables for possible invasion, other barriers to dispersal and successful colonization need to be overcome by the species for successful invasion. In this study, we combine field-based surveys of R. raciborskii (microscopy and molecular analysis using species-specific primers) of 11 Swedish lakes and in-silico screening of environmental DNA using 153 metagenomic datasets from lakes across Europe to validate the SDMs prediction. Field-based studies in lakes with high/low predicted probability of occurrence did not detect the presence of R. raciborskii, and in-silico screening only detected hints of its presence in 5 metagenomes from lakes with probability ranging from 0.059 to 0.825. The inconsistencies between SDMs results and both field-based/in-silico monitoring could be due to either sensitivity of monitoring approaches in detecting early invasions or uncertainties in SDMs that focused solely on climate drivers. However, results highlight the necessity of proactive monitoring with high temporal and spatial frequency.

Published in

ISME Communications
2023, Volume: 3, number: 1, article number: 56