Species Distribution Models (SDMs) are statistical tools used to assess the relationship between where a species occurs and the environmental characteristics of those locations. These models have long been used for forces of good: to direct survey efforts and locate previously unknown populations, aid with species conservation, provide a line of defence against invasive species, and serve as sentinels, warning of climate change impacts.
But are SDMs arch-villains in disguise, little more than poorly calibrated black-boxes with assumptions often violated and output frequently misinterpreted? Can we trust SDMs when they project massive declines in species richness due to climate change, and how can we ensure that these tools remain a force for good? In this talk, I’ll discuss the good, the bad and the ugly of SDMs as well as innovations to improve the realism and integrity of these imperfect tools.