23 April 2013

The Molecular Ecologist: Using R to model the spatial distributions of species

Environmental variation across the range of Joshua tree. Image via The Molecular Ecologist.
This week at The Molecular Ecologist, I'm showing how to use the popular open-source statistical programming language R to estimate species distribution models.

Species distribution models (SDMs) are handy any time you want to extrapolate where a species might be based on where you know it actually is. Maybe you’re trying to figure out where would be fruitful to do more sampling; maybe you want to know where your favorite critters probably lived back during the last ice age; maybe you want to know what regions will be suitable for your favorite critters after another century of global climate change.

Given how widely useful SDMs are, it's very nice to be able to estimate them using multiple methods implemented within a single open-source framework. To get a taste of the capabilities provided by R and a select set of add-on packages, go read the whole thing.◼

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