Muddy boots beget wisdom: Implications for rare or endangered plant species distribution models

Nora H. Oleas, Kenneth J. Feeley, Javier Fajardo, Alan W. Meerow, Jennifer Gebelein, Javier Francisco-Ortega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Species distribution models (SDMs) are popular tools for predicting the geographic ranges of species. It is common practice to use georeferenced records obtained from online databases to generate these models. Using three species of Phaedranassa (Amaryllidaceae) from the Northern Andes, we compare the geographic ranges as predicted by SDMs based on online records (after standard data cleaning) with SDMs of these records confirmed through extensive field searches. We also review the identification of herbarium collections. The species' ranges generated with corroborated field records did not agree with the species' ranges based on the online data. Specifically, geographic ranges based on online data were significantly inflated and had significantly different and wider elevational extents compared to the ranges based on verified field records. Our results suggest that to generate accurate predictions of species' ranges, occurrence records need to be carefully evaluated with (1) appropriate filters (e.g., altitude range, ecosystem); (2) taxonomic monographs and/or specialist corroboration; and (3) validation through field searches. This study points out the implications of generating SDMs produced with unverified online records to guide species-specific conservation strategies since inaccurate range predictions can have important consequences when estimating species' extinction risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Conservation
  • Georeferencing error
  • Northern Andes
  • Phaedranassa
  • Species occurrence data
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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