Painting maps with bats: species distribution modelling in bat research and conservation
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School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol
School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, CIBIO/InBIO, University of Porto and CEABN/InBIO, Universidade de Lisboa
Environmetrix Lab, Department of Biosciences and Territory, Università degli Studi del Molise
Università degli Studi di Napoli "Federico II"
Publication date: 2016-06-16
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2016;27(1)

Species distribution models (SDMs) offer an effective tool for identifying species conservation requirements and forecasting how global environmental changes will affect species diversity and distribution. This approach is particularly relevant for bats because their nocturnal behaviour hinders detectability and identification in flight. Despite their important contribution to global biodiversity and wide geographical ranges, bats have been under-represented in early SDM studies, and only in the last few years has this approach become more widely used in bat research. We carried out a meta-analysis of the published literature to review the history of the use of SDMs in bat research and their application in conservation, climate change assessments and genetic studies. We focus on the geographical coverage, theme and modelling algorithm of published studies, and compare studies that are uniquely dedicated to bats to multi-taxa studies that include bats. We provide recommendations for good modelling practices through considering spatial scale and spatial biases, selecting ecologically relevant variables, following rigorous modelling protocols, and recognising the limitations of extrapolation across temporal scales. We suggest future developments that will further favour the use of SDMs to study bat ecology and biogeography, as well as inform conservation management. We conclude that despite an increase in bat SDM studies, their scope and application can be further enhanced through incorporating dispersal, landscape connectivity and biotic interactions between bats, their prey and their pathogens.