Ecological a??niche modelinga?? using presence-only locality data and large-scale environmental variables provides a powerful tool for identifying and mapping suitable habitat for species over large spatial extents. We describe a niche modeling approach that identifies a minimum (rather than an optimum) set of basic habitat requirements for a species, based on the assumption that constant environmental relationships in a species' distribution (i.e., variables that maintain a consistent value where the species occurs) are most likely to be associated with limiting factors. Environmental variables that take on a wide range of values where a species occurs are less informative because they do not limit a species' distribution, at least over the range of variation sampled. This approach is operationalized by partitioning Mahalanobis D2 (standardized difference between values of a set of environmental variables for any point and mean values for those same variables calculated from all points at which a species was detected) into independent components. The smallest of these components represents the linear combination of variables with minimum variance; increasingly larger components represent larger variances and are increasingly less limiting. We illustrate this approach using the California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica Brewster) and provide SAS code to implement it.
Additional publication details
GIS-based niche modeling for mapping species' habitats