Delineating environmental envelopes to improve mapping of species distributions, via a hurdle model with CART &/or MaxEnT

Pirathiban, R., Williams, K.J., & Low-Choy, S.J. (2015) Delineating environmental envelopes to improve mapping of species distributions, via a hurdle model with CART &/or MaxEnT. In Weber, T., McPhee, M.J., & Anderssen, R.S. (Eds.) 21st International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM2015), 29 November - 4 December 2015, Gold Coast, Qld.

View at publisher (open access)


Species distribution modelling (SDM) typically analyses species’ presence together with some form of absence information. Ideally absences comprise observations or are inferred from comprehensive sampling. When such information is not available, then pseudo-absences are often generated from the background locations within the study region of interest containing the presences, or else absence is implied through the comparison of presences to the whole study region, e.g. as is the case in Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) or Poisson point process modelling.

However, the choice of which absence information to include can be both challenging and highly influential on SDM predictions (e.g. Oksanen and Minchin, 2002). In practice, the use of pseudo- or implied absences often leads to an imbalance where absences far outnumber presences. This leaves analysis highly susceptible to ‘naughty-noughts’: absences that occur beyond the envelope of the species, which can exert strong influence on the model and its predictions (Austin and Meyers, 1996). Also known as ‘excess zeros’, naughty noughts can be estimated via an overall proportion in simple hurdle or mixture models (Martin et al., 2005). However, absences, especially those that occur beyond the species envelope, can often be more diverse than presences. Here we consider an extension to excess zero models. The two-staged approach first exploits the compartmentalisation provided by classification trees (CTs) (as in O’Leary, 2008) to identify multiple sources of naughty noughts and simultaneously delineate several species envelopes. Then SDMs can be fit separately within each envelope, and for this stage, we examine both CTs (as in Falk et al., 2014) and the popular MaxEnt (Elith et al., 2006).

We introduce a wider range of model performance measures to improve treatment of naughty noughts in SDM. We retain an overall measure of model performance, the area under the curve (AUC) of the Receiver-Operating Curve (ROC), but focus on its constituent measures of false negative rate (FNR) and false positive rate (FPR), and how these relate to the threshold in the predicted probability of presence that delimits predicted presence from absence. We also propose error rates more relevant to users of predictions: false omission rate (FOR), the chance that a predicted absence corresponds to (and hence wastes) an observed presence, and the false discovery rate (FDR), reflecting those predicted (or potential) presences that correspond to absence. A high FDR may be desirable since it could help target future search efforts, whereas zero or low FOR is desirable since it indicates none of the (often valuable) presences have been ignored in the SDM.

For illustration, we chose Bradypus variegatus, a species that has previously been published as an exemplar species for MaxEnt, proposed by Phillips et al. (2006). We used CTs to increasingly refine the species envelope, starting with the whole study region (E0), eliminating more and more potential naughty noughts (E1–E3). When combined with an SDM fit within the species envelope, the best CT SDM had similar AUC and FPR to the best MaxEnt SDM, but otherwise performed better. The FNR and FOR were greatly reduced, suggesting that CTs handle absences better. Interestingly, MaxEnt predictions showed low discriminatory performance, with the most common predicted probability of presence being in the same range (0.00-0.20) for both true absences and presences. In summary, this example shows that SDMs can be improved by introducing an initial hurdle to identify naughty noughts and partition the envelope before applying SDMs. This improvement was barely detectable via AUC and FPR yet visible in FOR, FNR, and the comparison of predicted probability of presence distribution for pres/absence.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

24 since deposited on 05 Jan 2016
14 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 91352
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Naughty-noughts, excess zeros, species distribution modelling, predictive performance, misclassification rate
ISBN: 9780987214355
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Mathematical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Facilities: Science and Engineering Centre
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 [Please consult the author]
Deposited On: 05 Jan 2016 22:55
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2016 03:45

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page