Introducing Open Modeller - A fundamental niche modelling framework

Tim Sutton, Renato de Giovanni, Marinez Ferreira Siqueira

Abstract


Introduction

In 1957 Hutchinson (4) formalised the fundamental
niche principle. In essence, he proposed that if all
the environmental conditions that allow a species to
exist indefinately could be tabulated as a multidimensional
hypercube, then the resulting hypercube
could be considered to be the organismâ??s fundamental
ecological niche. Naturally, fully understanding
all the ecological conditions for any given species is
a monumental task, limited primarily by the lack of
rich data that could drive such an analysis. By extrapolation
of the association between species occurrence
localities and a set of GIS raster layers representing
environmental conditions such as rainfall,
temperature, solar radiation etc., a correlative approach
can be taken towards describing an organismâ??s
ecological niche (10). Using this technique, a
raster layer can be produced with areas that most
resemble the environmental conditions at the original
known sites of occurrence for the organism. Arguably,
this approach first garnered widespread interest
with the publication of â??A biogeographic analysis
of Australian Elapid snakes.â?? (5), where the
authors produced predicted distribution maps for
Elapid snakes based on simple models of climatic
preference. As the world starts to engage more fully
in the discussion of the potential impacts of global
climate change, the abillity to predict the impact of
these changes on the distribution of organisms has
become more topical. Fundamental niche modelling
has been used to predict species loss in the face of future
climate changes (12; 2). It has also been used to
model invasive species, spread of disease vectors (6)
and in phylogenetic modelling to produce distribution
maps for hypothetical ancestors (13; 14).

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