Improved conservation outcomes through distribution modeling
Presenter: Healy Hamilton, NatureServe
The geographic distribution of threatened and endangered (T&E) species is fundamental to a wide range of conservation and resource management actions. Differing approaches to determining a threatened species distribution range from using point locality observations to broad range maps to county-based records. Each of these approaches has drawbacks. When only observations are used, the accuracy depends on intensity and distribution of sampling effort, and the occupied area is usually underpredicted. When coarse range maps are used, they are often subjective and difficult to replicate, and the occupied area is overpredicted. These issues can provoke unnecessary conflict in endangered species management, can affect downstream spatial analyses of conservation prioritization, and can cause misdirection of limited resources. Advances in ecological modeling can help solve this tractable problem. Here, we describe an initiative to produce a nationally consistent, verifiable, multi-jurisdictional library of T & E species distributions by applying scientifically robust species distribution modeling (SDM) techniques. We demonstrate use cases where SDMs of threatened species have informed listing decisions under the Endangered Species Act, guided avoidance and mitigation strategies, supported species recovery efforts, and increased efficiency of inventory and monitoring programs. This national effort could increase the effectiveness of conservation, while reducing costs and conflicts for industry and federal agencies.