Transferring biodiversity models for conservation: opportunities and challenges

Ana M. M. Sequeira*, Phil J. Bouchet, Katherine L. Yates, Kerrie Mengersen, M. Julian Caley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


1. After decades of extensive surveying, knowledge of the global distribution of species still remains inadequate for many purposes. In the short to medium term, such knowledge is unlikely to improve greatly given the often prohibitive costs of surveying and the typically limited resources available.

2. By forecasting biodiversity patterns in time and space, predictive models can help fill critical knowledge gaps and prioritise research to support better conservation and management.

3. The ability of a model to predict biodiversity metrics in novel environments is termed "transferability," and models with high transferability will be the most useful in this context.

4. Despite their potentially broad utility, little guidance exists on what confers high transferability to biodiversity models.

5. We synthesise recent advances in biodiversity model transfers to facilitate increased understanding of what underpins successful model transferability, demonstrating that a consistent approach has so far been lacking but is essential for achieving high levels of repeatability, transparency and accountability of model transfers.

6. We provide a set of guidelines to support efficient learning and the improvement of model transferability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1250-1264
Number of pages15
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number5
Early online date11 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Applied ecology
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation
  • Extrapolation
  • Forecasting
  • Modelling
  • Statistics


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