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Terrestrial or marine species distribution model: Why not both? A case study with seabirds.

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Species reliant on both the terrestrial and marine realms present a challenge for conventional species distribution models (SDMs). For such species, standard single-realm SDMs may omit key information that could result in decreased model accuracy and performance. Existing approaches to habitat suitability modeling typically do not effectively combine information from multiple realms; this methodological gap can ultimately hamper management efforts for groups such as seabirds, seals, and turtles. This study, for the first time, jointly incorporates both terrestrial information and marine information into a single species distribution model framework. We do this by sampling nearby marine conditions for a given terrestrial point and vice versa using parameters set by each species' mean maximum foraging distance and then use standard SDM methods to generate habitat suitability predictions; therefore, our method does not rely on post hoc combination of several different models. Using three seabird species with very different ecologies, we investigate whether this new multi-realm approach can improve our ability to identify suitable habitats for these species. Results show that incorporating terrestrial information into marine SDMs, or vice versa, generally improves model performance, sometimes drastically. However, there is considerable variability between species in the level of improvement as well as in the particular method that produces the most improvement. Our approach provides a repeatable and transparent method to combine information from multiple ecological realms in a single SDM framework. Important advantages over existing solutions include the opportunity to, firstly, easily combine terrestrial and marine information for species that forage large distances inland or out to sea and, secondly, consider interactions between terrestrial and marine variables.



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Ecol Evol

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This work has been funded by Stichting Ave Fenix Europa. NP is funded by Research England; SOP and WJS were funded by Arcadia, The David and Claudia Harding Foundation and MAVA Foundation