Outstanding challenges in the transferability of ecological models

Katherine L. Yates*, Phil J. Bouchet, M. Julian Caley, Kerrie Mengersen, Christophe F. Randin, Stephen Parnell, Alan H. Fielding, Andrew J. Bamford, Stephen Ban, A. Márcia Barbosa, Carsten F. Dormann, Jane Elith, Clare B. Embling, Gary N. Ervin, Rebecca Fisher, Susan Gould, Roland F. Graf, Edward J. Gregr, Patrick N. Halpin, Risto K. HeikkinenStefan Heinänen, Alice R. Jones, Periyadan K. Krishnakumar, Valentina Lauria, Hector Lozano-Montes, Laura Mannocci, Camille Mellin, Mohsen B. Mesgaran, Elena Moreno-Amat, Sophie Mormede, Emilie Novaczek, Steffen Oppel, Guillermo Ortuño Crespo, A. Townsend Peterson, Giovanni Rapacciuolo, Jason J. Roberts, Rebecca E. Ross, Kylie L. Scales, David Schoeman, Paul Snelgrove, Göran Sundblad, Wilfried Thuiller, Leigh G. Torres, Heroen Verbruggen, Lifei Wang, Seth Wenger, Mark J. Whittingham, Yuri Zharikov, Damaris Zurell, Ana M. M. Sequeira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

370 Citations (Scopus)
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Predictive models are central to many scientific disciplines and vital for informing management in a rapidly changing world. However, limited understanding of the accuracy and precision of models transferred to novel conditions (their 'transferability') undermines confidence in their predictions. Here, 50 experts identified priority knowledge gaps which, if filled, will most improve model transfers. These are summarized into six technical and six fundamental challenges, which underlie the combined need to intensify research on the determinants of ecological predictability, including species traits and data quality, and develop best practices for transferring models. Of high importance is the identification of a widely applicable set of transferability metrics, with appropriate tools to quantify the sources and impacts of prediction uncertainty under novel conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)790-802
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number10
Early online date27 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Species distribution model
  • Climate-change
  • Decision-making
  • Temporal transferability
  • Biotic interactions
  • Predictive models
  • Habitat selection
  • Distributions
  • NIche
  • Abundance


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