Understanding spatial effects in species distribution models

Iosu Paradinas*, Janine Illian, Sophie Smout

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Species Distribution Models often include spatial effects which may improve prediction at unsampled locations and reduce Type I errors when identifying environmental drivers. In some cases ecologists try to ecologically interpret the spatial patterns displayed by the spatial effect. However, spatial autocorrelation may be driven by many different unaccounted drivers, which complicates the ecological interpretation of fitted spatial effects. This study aims to provide a practical demonstration that spatial effects are able to smooth the effect of multiple unaccounted drivers. To do so we use a simulation study that fit model-based spatial models using both geostatistics and 2D smoothing splines. Results show that fitted spatial effects resemble the sum of the unaccounted covariate surface(s) in each model.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0285463
Number of pages6
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2023


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