Software for modeling species niches and distributions

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The Maxent software is based on the maximum-entropy approach for modeling species niches and distributions. From a set of environmental (e.g., climatic) grids and georeferenced occurrence localities (e.g. mediated by GBIF), the model expresses a probability distribution where each grid cell has a predicted suitability of conditions for the species. Under particular assumptions about the input data and biological sampling efforts that led to occurrence records, the output can be interpreted as predicted probability of presence (cloglog transform), or as predicted local abundance (raw exponential output).

Species models are determined from a set of environmental or climate layers (or “coverages”) for a set of grid cells in a landscape, together with a set of sample locations where the species has been observed.  The model expresses the suitability of each grid cell as a function of the environmental variables at that grid cell.  A high value of the function at a particular grid cell indicates that the grid cell is predicted to have suitable conditions for that species.  The computed model is a probability distribution over all the grid cells.  The distribution chosen is the one that has maximum entropy subject to some constraints: it must have the same expectation for each feature (derived from the environmental layers) as the average over sample locations.

Maxent is a stand-alone Java application and can be used on any computer running Java version 1.5 or later.


Steven J. Phillips, Miroslav Dudík, Robert E. Schapire. [Internet] Maxent software for modeling species niches and distributions (Version 3.4.1). Available from url: Accessed on <date>.