Confronting species distribution model predictions with species functional traits

Marion E. Wittmann, Matthew A. Barnes, Christopher L. Jerde, Lisa A. Jones, David M. Lodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Species distribution models are valuable tools in studies of biogeography, ecology, and climate change and have been used to inform conservation and ecosystem management. However, species distribution models typically incorporate only climatic variables and species presence data. Model development or validation rarely considers functional components of species traits or other types of biological data. We implemented a species distribution model (Maxent) to predict global climate habitat suitability for Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella). We then tested the relationship between the degree of climate habitat suitability predicted by Maxent and the individual growth rates of both wild (N = 17) and stocked (N = 51) Grass Carp populations using correlation analysis. The Grass Carp Maxent model accurately reflected the global occurrence data (AUC = 0.904). Observations of Grass Carp growth rate covered six continents and ranged from 0.19 to 20.1 g day-1. Species distribution model predictions were correlated (r = 0.5, 95% CI (0.03, 0.79)) with observed growth rates for wild Grass Carp populations but were not correlated (r = -0.26, 95% CI (-0.5, 0.012)) with stocked populations. Further, a review of the literature indicates that the few studies for other species that have previously assessed the relationship between the degree of predicted climate habitat suitability and species functional traits have also discovered significant relationships. Thus, species distribution models may provide inferences beyond just where a species may occur, providing a useful tool to understand the linkage between species distributions and underlying biological mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-879
Number of pages7
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Environmental niche model
  • Grass carp
  • Managed species
  • Maxent
  • Model validation
  • Species biogeography
  • Species functional traits


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