[MARMAM] New publication on habitat modelling/survey coverage in the marine environment

Macleod, Colin D. c.d.macleod at abdn.ac.uk
Tue Jun 15 14:05:19 PDT 2010

Dear Marmammers,

The following publication (abstract below) is now available which presents a new tool for assessing whether any given survey coverage (planned or already undertaken) is sufficient to undertake habitat modelling of a marine species (such as cetaceans) within a given study area for a given set of habitat variables.  If you do not have access to JMBA and are interested in a PDF, please email me at c.d.macleod at abdn.ac.uk

All the best,


MacLeod, C.D. 2010. Habitat representativeness score (HRS): a novel concept for objectively assessing the suitability of survey coverage for modelling the distribution of marine species. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdon. doi:10.1017/S0025315410000408

The occurrence of most species is linked to the distribution of specific combinations of environmental variables that define their occupied niche. As a result, the relationship between environmental variables and species occurrence can be used to model species distribution. However, when collecting data to construct such models, it is preferable to ensure that the survey coverage is representative of all available habitat combinations within the area as a whole to ensure that the model does not under- or over-estimate the actual species distribution. By using multi-variate statistical techniques, a habitat representativeness score (HRS) can be calculated to provide an objective assessment of whether a specific survey coverage will collect (or has collected) data that are representative of all available habitat  variable combinations in an area. To demonstrate this approach, HRSs calculated using principal component analysis were used to assess the minimum number of evenly-spaced parallel north–south surveys required to adequately survey two study areas with differing levels of environmental heterogeneity for all available combinations of four habitat variables. For the more environmentally homogeneous study area, the HRS suggests that for this survey design a minimum of five evenly-spaced parallel transects, covering around 5% of the study area, would be required to obtain representative survey coverage for these four variables. However, for the more heterogeneous study area, at least eight evenly-spaced parallel transects, covering around 9% of the study area, would be required. Therefore, for a given survey design, more survey effort is required to obtain a representative survey coverage when the survey area is more variable. In both cases, conducting fewer surveys than these minimum values would produce an unrepresentative data set and this could potentially lead to the production of species distribution models that do not accurately reflect the true species distribution.

Colin D. MacLeod, Ph.D.
School of Biological Sciences (Zoology),
University of Aberdeen,
Tillydrone Avenue,
AB24 2TZ, UK

Tel: 01224 272648
Fax: 01224 272396

Email: c.d.macleod at abdn.ac.uk

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The University of Aberdeen is a charity registered in Scotland, No SC013683.

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