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Climatic information from distribution data of a species can be used to compute its climate envelope. Climate envelope models (CEMs) are employed to predict potential geographic ranges of species as a function of climate by comparing the climate envelope with climatic conditions at locations of unknown occurrence. CEMs find their way into applied sciences such as conservation management and risk assessment, but they also perform well in systematics and evolutionary research, often supplementary to other methods. Although the application of CEM approaches is developing rapidly, there is a considerable lack of theoretical background. We summarise theoretical assumptions behind CEMs, describe how they work and discuss possible pitfalls when interpreting results. In addition, we provide examples from our ongoing research on the Afrotropical reed frogs, genus Hyperolius (Hyperoliidae). We delimit the potential distribution of a recently recognised taxon within the Hyperolius cinnamomeoventris species complex and propose possible speciation scenarios for H. mitchelli and H. puncticulatus.
Climate and the geographic distribution of species
It is known that climate elements and factors have an important influence on the distribution of plant and animal species; likewise, the ecological niche concept has been well discussed (Grinnell, 1917; James et al., 1984). In recent years, there has been a remarkable increase in availability of information on climatic parameters in geographic space, including remote regions. There has also been improved recording of species distribution data.
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