NATURE ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION - Gaps and opportunities in modelling human influence on species distributions in the Anthropocene


June 12, 2024 - <> and <>


Understanding species distributions is a global priority for mitigating environmental pressures from human activities. Ample studies have identified key environmental (climate and habitat) predictors and the spatial scales at which they influence species distributions. However, regarding human influence, such understandings are largely lacking. Here, to advance knowledge concerning human influence on species distributions, we systematically reviewed species distribution modelling (SDM) articles and assessed current modelling efforts. We searched 12,854 articles and found only 1,429 articles using human predictors within SDMs. Collectively, these studies of >58,000 species used 2,307 unique human predictors, suggesting that in contrast to environmental predictors, there is no ‘rule of thumb’ for human predictor selection in SDMs. The number of human predictors used across studies also varied (usually one to four per study). Moreover, nearly half the articles projecting to future climates held human predictors constant over time, risking false optimism about the effects of human activities compared with climate change. Advances in using human predictors in SDMs are paramount for accurately informing and advancing policy, conservation, management and ecology. We show considerable gaps in including human predictors to understand current and future species distributions in the Anthropocene, opening opportunities for new inquiries. We pose 15 questions to advance ecological theory, methods and real-world applications.



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