Adding biotics to species distribution models

This paper evaluates the impact of biotic factors on species distribution patterns.

Data resources used via GBIF : 33,349 species occurrences
European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) by tomski via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Species distribution models (SDMs) commonly use environmental variables such as climate data to predict distributions of species. Biotic factors, however, also shape spatial distributions, and most SDMs ignore factors such as predation, parasitism, and other interactions between species. In this study, researchers used GBIF-mediated occurrences to construct models of lagomorph distributions in Europe. They then tested the predictive ability of models based solely on abiotic factors against models containing both abiotic and biotic factors using IUCN range maps to quantify the influence of biotic factors on species distribution patterns. For the majority of European lagomorph species, the models incorporating biotic factors outperformed the models with only abiotic data, as both appear to have equal importance in shaping distributions. The paper shows that biotic factors must be taken into account in order to improve the reliability of predicting species distribution patterns and for the field of species distribution modelling to advance.


Leach K, Montgomery WI and Reid N (2016) Modelling the influence of biotic factors on species distribution patterns. Ecological Modelling. Elsevier BV 337: 96–106. Available at doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2016.06.008.