Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 August 2012
Austin (2002) presented a framework for spatial prediction of species distributions (as outlined in Chapter 1) that links ecological theory to implementation (statistical modeling). This chapter discussed the ecological model portion of that framework – those ecological and biogeographical concepts and theories that are needed to frame the empirical modeling of species distributions. The ecological model is required in order to identify the characteristics of species occurrence data that are appropriate for modeling, select explanatory variables or their surrogates, specify appropriate scale(s) of analysis, hypothesize the nature or form of the species-environment relationship (the shape of the response curve), and select an effective modeling method. In this chapter, I will review the niche concept, and related to it, factors limiting species distributions, environmental gradients and species response functions. Finally, conceptual models of the environmental factors that control species distributions at hierarchical spatial and temporal scales that are particularly relevant to SDMs will be described.
The species niche concept
A number of ecological theories related to causes of species distributions, species diversity, and community structure may be relevant to SDM, but a lot of recent discussion has focused on the species niche concept as it relates to SDM (Austin & Smith, 1989; Austin, 2002; Guisan & Thuiller, 2005; Araújo & Guisan, 2006; Kearney, 2006; Soberón, 2007; Hirzel & Le Lay, 2008; Jiménez-Valverde et al., 2008).