We propose a multivariate approach to the study of geographic species distribution which does not require absence data. Building on Hutchinson's concept of the ecological niche, this factor analysis compares, in the multidimensional space of ecological variables, the distribution of the localities where the focal species was observed to a reference set describing the whole study area. The first factor extracted maximizes the marginality of the focal species, defined as the ecological distance between the species optimum and the mean habitat within the reference area. The other factors maximize the specialization of this focal species, defined as the ratio of the ecological variance in mean habitat to that observed for the focal species. Eigenvectors and eigenvalues are readily interpreted and can be used to build habitat-suitability maps. This approach is recommended in situations where absence data are not available (many data banks), unreliable (most cryptic or rare species), or meaningless (invaders). We provide an illustration and validation of the method for the alpine ibex, a species reintroduced in Switzerland which presumably has not yet recolonized its entire range.
Ecology – Ecological Society of America
Published: Jul 1, 2002
Keywords: Capra ibex ; ecological niche ; GIS ; habitat suitability ; marginality ; multivariate analysis ; presence––absence data ; specialization ; species distribution ; Switzerland
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