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Modelling current and potential distributions of mammal species using presence-only data: a case study on British deer

Croft, Simon; Ward, Alastair I.; Aegerter, James N.; Smith, Graham C.


Simon Croft

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Dr Alastair Ward
Head of Department, Biological and Marine Sciences

James N. Aegerter

Graham C. Smith


Aim: Decisions on wildlife conservation, management and epidemiological risk are best based on robust evidence. The continual improvement of species distribution modelling, such that it can be relied upon in decision-making is important. Here we seek to refine an aspect of a generic modelling approach, and improve the utility of species distribution maps. Our application with English deer identifies current and future range overlap of deer species where this might be important in understanding disease spread.
Location: Great Britain
Methods: Using British deer as a case study we applied a generalised modelling framework based on hierarchical Bayesian species distribution models exploiting opportunistic occurrence records from citizen science datasets to predict both current and potential distributions for each of the six species known to be present in GB. Based on the resulting maps we performed a simple analysis of the overlap between species to illustrate possible contact, which we interpret as the relative risk of potential disease spread given an introduction.
Results: Predicted maps from the species distribution modelling showed good agreement with the broader scale occurrence reported by a recent national deer survey with an average True Skill Statistics and AUC of 0.69 and 0.89 respectively. Aggregation of the maps for all species highlighted regions of central and eastern England as well as parts of Scotland where extensive areas of interspecific contact might occur and as such be of importance to epidemiological risk assessments for diseases of deer. However, if populations are allowed to expand to their predicted potential then areas of interspecific contact, and therefore infection risk, will become extensive and widespread across all of mainland Britain.
Main conclusions: The generalised modelling approach outlined performed well across all of the deer species tested offering a robust and reliable tool through which current and potential distributions can be estimated and presented. Our application, intended to inform quantitative assessments of epidemiological risk demonstrates, even on a basic level, the practical use of such outputs to generate the valuable evidence required to inform policy decisions on issues such as management strategy.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Aug 8, 2019
Journal Ecology and Evolution
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Issue 15
Pages 8724-8735
APA6 Citation Croft, S., Ward, A. I., Aegerter, J. N., & Smith, G. C. (2019). Modelling current and potential distributions of mammal species using presence-only data: a case study on British deer. Ecology and Evolution, 9(15), 8724-8735.
Keywords Citizen science; Deer; Disease; Risk assessment; Species distribution modeling; Wildlife management
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Copyright Statement
© 2019 Crown copyright. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This article is published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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