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Concept of Ecological Niche and Species Distribution Model

Concept of Ecological Niche and Species Distribution Model


In ecology, the term Niche is referred as all of the interactions of a species with the other members of its community, including competition, predation, parasitism, and mutualism.  A variety of abiotic factors, such as soil type and climate, also define a species’ niche. Ecological niche is a term for the position of a species within an ecosystem, describing both the range of conditions necessary for persistence of the species, and its ecological role in the ecosystem.

The ecological niche is basically two types- 1. Fundamental niche and 2. Realized niche

Ecological Niche Models (ENMs) or Environmental Niche Models are a class of methods that use occurrence data in conjunction with environmental data to make a correlative model of the environmental conditions that meet a species' ecological requirements and predict the relative suitability of habitat. ENMs are most often used in one of four ways: (1) to estimate the relative suitability of habitat known to be occupied by the species, (2) to estimate the relative suitability of habitat in geographic areas not known to be occupied by the species, (3) to estimate changes in the suitability of habitat over time given a specific scenario for environmental change, and (4) as estimates of the species niche. While transferability of ENMs (i.e., uses 2 and 3) and use of ENMs as niche estimates (4) are known to be accompanied by a host of conceptual and practical problems, in many cases ENM methods are employed because they are quite simply the only tools available.

Ecological Niche Models (ENMs) or Environmental Niche Models is also known as Species Distribution Model(SDM), habitat modelling, predictive habitat distribution modelling, and range mapping uses computer algorithms to predict the distribution of a species across geographic space and time using environmental data. The environmental data are most often climate data (e.g. temperature, precipitation), but can include other variables such as soil type, water depth, and land cover. SDMs are used in several research areas in conservation biology, ecology and evolution. These models can be used to understand how environmental conditions influence the occurrence or abundance of a species, and for predictive purposes (ecological forecasting). Predictions from an SDM may be of a species’ future distribution under climate change, a species’ past distribution in order to assess evolutionary relationships, or the potential future distribution of an invasive species. Predictions of current and/or future habitat suitability can be useful for management applications (e.g. reintroduction or translocation of vulnerable species, reserve placement in anticipation of climate change).

There are a variety of mathematical methods that can be used for fitting, selecting, and evaluating correlative SDMs. A "machine learning" methods such as maximum entropy (MAXENT) algorithms is mostly used in SDM can be seen in Next Post.


Escobar LE (2020) Ecological Niche Modeling: An Introduction for Veterinarians and Epidemiologists. Front. Vet. Sci. 7:519059. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2020.519059

Polechov√°, J., & Storch, D. (2008). Ecological niche. Encyclopedia of ecology, 2, 1088-1097.




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