Accounting for uncertainty when mapping species distributions: The need for maps of ignorance

  • Rocchini D
  • Hortal J
  • Lengyel S
 et al. 
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Accurate mapping of species distributions is a fundamental goal of modern biogeography, both for basic and applied purposes. This is commonly done by plotting known species occurrences, expert-drawn range maps or geographical estimations derived from species distribution models. However, all three kinds of maps are implicitly subject to uncertainty, due to the quality and bias of raw distributional data, the process of map building, and the dynamic nature of species distributions themselves. Here we review the main sources of uncertainty suggesting a code of good practices in order to minimize their effects. Specifically, we claim that uncertainty should be always explicitly taken into account and we propose the creation of maps of ignorance to provide information on where the mapped distributions are reliable and where they are uncertain.

Author-supplied keywords

  • biodiversity
  • biogeography
  • conservation
  • macroecology
  • species distribution maps
  • species distribution modelling
  • uncertainty

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