Facilitation through positive interactions between species can affect the range of a beneficiary by changing the microclimate to match its fundamental niche in an otherwise unsuitable and high-stress environment such as a desert. When modelling ecological niches, these interactions may affect models.
In an attempt to quantify the effects of such microclimate ameliorations, authors used GBIF-mediated occurrences to model the distribution of 20 annual plant species–10 known beneficiaries and 10 unreported–in the Mojave Desert while examining the results of including benefactor shrub species.
For known beneficiary species, the performance of models improved significantly when taking shrub co-occurrences into consideration, but they were not different for unreported species. These results highlight the importance of positive interactions and other biotic interactions in modelling, and suggest that co-occurrence of benefactor species can be used as a proxy for facilitation.