Biodiversity databases are ever more numerous, but can they be used reliably for Species Distribution Modelling?
Integrating biodiversity assessments into local conservation planning: the importance of assessing suitable data sources
Recommendation: posted 03 October 2023, validated 03 October 2023
Schtickzelle, N. (2023) Biodiversity databases are ever more numerous, but can they be used reliably for Species Distribution Modelling?. Peer Community in Ecology, 100539. 10.24072/pci.ecology.100539
Proposing efficient guidelines for biodiversity conservation often requires the use of forecasting tools. Species Distribution Models (SDM) are more and more used to predict how the distribution of a species will react to environmental change, including any large-scale management actions that could be implemented. Their use is also boosted by the increase of publicly available biodiversity databases. The now famous aphorism by George Box "All models are wrong but some are useful" very well summarizes that the outcome of a model must be adjusted to, and will depend on, the data that are used to parameterize it. The question of the reliability of using biodiversity databases to parameterize biodiversity models such as SDM –but the question would also apply to other kinds of biodiversity models, e.g. Population Viability Analysis models– is key to determine the confidence that can be placed in model predictions. This point is often overlooked by some categories of biodiversity conservation stakeholders, in particular the fact that some data were collected using controlled protocols while others are opportunistic.
In this study, the authors use a collection of databases covering a range of species as well as of geographic scales in France and using different data collection and validation approaches as a case study to evaluate the impact of data quality when performing Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Among their conclusions, the fact that a large-scale database (what they call the “country” level) is necessary to reliably parameterize SDM. Besides this and other conclusions of their study, which are likely to be in part specific to their case study –unfortunately for its conservation, biodiversity is complex and varies a lot–, the merit of this work lies in the approach used to test the impact of data on model predictions.
1. Feng, X. et al. A review of the heterogeneous landscape of biodiversity databases: Opportunities and challenges for a synthesized biodiversity knowledge base. Global Ecology and Biogeography 31, 1242–1260 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13497
2. Box, G. E. P. Robustness in the Strategy of Scientific Model Building. in Robustness in Statistics (eds. Launer, R. L. & Wilkinson, G. N.) 201–236 (Academic Press, 1979). https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-438150-6.50018-2.
3. Beissinger, S. R. & McCullough, D. R. Population Viability Analysis. (The University of Chicago Press, 2002).
4. Ferraille, T., Kerbiriou, C., Bigard, C., Claireau, F. & Thompson, J. D. (2023) Integrating biodiversity assessments into local conservation planning: the importance of assessing suitable data sources. bioRxiv, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.05.09.539999
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article. The authors declared that they comply with the PCI rule of having no financial conflicts of interest in relation to the content of the article.
This study was funded by “Naturalia Environnement” and “Association Nationale de la Recherche et de la Technologie” (grant number: 2020/0584).
Evaluation round #1
DOI or URL of the preprint: https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.05.09.539999
Version of the preprint: 1
Author's Reply, 26 Sep 2023
Decision by Nicolas Schtickzelle, posted 14 Sep 2023, validated 14 Sep 2023
First, I want to apologize for the delay in getting a decision on your manuscript. A very large number of contacted reviewers declined, likely because the summer is often not a good period and more fundamentally because of the high workload of our research community.
I have now received the remarks of two reviewers, with complementary background: the first reviewer, a specialist, gave a detailed set of remarks and suggestions to further improve the manuscript, while the second reviewer, with a more generalist background, provides the feedback of a reader interested by the general question but without the detailed knowledge of the methodology used in the paper. Both reviews are detailed and demonstrate the commitment of the reviewers.
Both reviewers see great merit in your study and are expecting we can recommend the manuscript once it has been further improved according to their detailed set of suggestions. I agree with their view about the interest of the study, but also about the potential to improve it for both specialist and less specialist readers.
A few extra specific comments:
· L104-106: this seems a duplicate of previous sentence.
· At several places there is a mismatch in which region is T1, T2 and T3. Please check everywhere. One reviewer also asks meaningful questions on the regional context.
· L151: change “for assess” into “to assess”.