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Published on Sep 17, 2011
Created by Dr. Colin MacLeod of GIS In Ecology (www.GISinEcology.com)
This video provides an illustration of the power of combining the concept of species distribution modelling with a Geographic Information System (or GIS for short).
Using a study of Cuvier's beaked whale in the Bay of Biscay, it shows the type of species distribution model which can be created to provide information on the likely species distribution in areas which were not directly surveyed. This is done by creating a GIS to link the surveyed areas and locations where the species was recorded to the underlying environmental variables which are likely to drive species distribution. In this case, the variables used were characteristics of the sea bed topography, such as water depth and slope.
These data can then taken out of the GIS and used to create a statistical model of the relationship between species occurrence and the environmental variables in specialist statistical software. The resulting model can then be brought back into the GIS to predict the distribution throughout the entire study area based on the spatial variations in the environmental variables.
By further processing the modelled predictions within the GIS, the predictions can be mapped onto a three dimensional model of seabed topography to provide a much clearer, and more intuitive, understanding of how the species distribution is related to the underlying topography. This not only helps us understand where the species is most likely to occur, but also why they preferentially occur in some habitats rather than others.