virtualspecies, an R package to generate virtual species distributions

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Authors Boris Leroy, Christine N. Meynard, Céline Bellard, Franck Courchamp
Journal/Conference Name Ecography
Paper Category
Paper Abstract virtualspecies is a freely available package for R designed to generate virtual species distributions, a procedure increasingly used in ecology to improve species distribution models. Th is package combines the existing methodological approaches with the objective of generating virtual species distributions with increased ecological realism. Th e package includes 1) generating the probability of occurrence of a virtual species from a spatial set of environmental conditions (i.e. environmental suitability), with two diff erent approaches; 2) converting the environmental suitability into presence – absence with a probabilistic approach; 3) introducing dispersal limitations in the realised virtual species distributions and 4) sampling occurrences with diff erent biases in the sampling procedure. Th e package was designed to be extremely fl exible, to allow users to simulate their own defi ned species – environment relationships, as well as to provide a fi ne control over every simulation parameter. Th e package also includes a function to generate random virtual species distributions. We provide a simple example in this paper showing how increasing ecological realism of the virtual species impacts the predictive performance of species distribution models. We expect that this new package will be valuable to researchers willing to test techniques and protocols of species distribution models as well as various biogeographical hypotheses.
Date of publication 2016
Code Programming Language R
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