Species Distribution Models (SDMs) play a critical role in synthesising our understanding of the natural world and making forward projections into novel conditions. These types of models can have many different applications: they can help to identify areas that should be prioritised for conservation, for example for endangered species that are vulnerable to extinction; they can be of value in evaluating the potential of an invasive species to settle in particular areas; they can also help determine potential routes of infections and diseases, which makes them important for public health and safety as well. Another application is to combine them with future projections of changes of the natural environment. This means they can be used to predict how biodiversity will be affected by impacts such as climate change or changes in land use.
With any modelling exercise, the output of a model is only as valid as the data that is put into it. So, good data practices are important. With this in mind, the BCCVL has teamed up with the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) to better integrate ALA’s Spatial Portal to BCCVL’s modelling capability.
The ALA contains more than 50 million occurrence records, based on specimens, field observations and surveys. Through the Spatial Portal the ALA also provides analysis tools which allows users to explore the information in new ways. For example, users can pull in species occurrence records and clean these based on a number of different facets such as spatial uncertainty, record type, collector, outlier, or even by visually clicking on records that appear nonsensical (i.e. records in the ocean for a terrestrial species). Once cleaned, users can also conduct some preliminary data investigation such as histograms and scatterplots to better understand their data before using it in models.
Previously, the BCCVL offered its users live access to the raw ALA occurrence records. However, to clean this data users had to download it, manually clean it and then reupload it into the BCCVL system. With this collaboration, users are now able to find, investigate and clean ALA occurrence records using the tools in the Spatial Portal and at the click of a button push this dataset directly to the BCCVL ready to be used in models. This integration promotes good data practices and will encourage more robust model outputs.