Using habitat suitability models to target invasive plant species surveys

Ecol Appl. 2013 Jan;23(1):60-72. doi: 10.1890/12-0465.1.


Managers need new tools for detecting the movement and spread of nonnative, invasive species. Habitat suitability models are a popular tool for mapping the potential distribution of current invaders, but the ability of these models to prioritize monitoring efforts has not been tested in the field. We tested the utility of an iterative sampling design (i.e., models based on field observations used to guide subsequent field data collection to improve the model), hypothesizing that model performance would increase when new data were gathered from targeted sampling using criteria based on the initial model results. We also tested the ability of habitat suitability models to predict the spread of invasive species, hypothesizing that models would accurately predict occurrences in the field, and that the use of targeted sampling would detect more species with less sampling effort than a nontargeted approach. We tested these hypotheses on two species at the state scale (Centaurea stoebe and Pastinaca sativa) in Wisconsin (USA), and one genus at the regional scale (Tamarix) in the western United States. These initial data were merged with environmental data at 30-m2 resolution for Wisconsin and 1-km2 resolution for the western United States to produce our first iteration models. We stratified these initial models to target field sampling and compared our models and success at detecting our species of interest to other surveys being conducted during the same field season (i.e., nontargeted sampling). Although more data did not always improve our models based on correct classification rate (CCR), sensitivity, specificity, kappa, or area under the curve (AUC), our models generated from targeted sampling data always performed better than models generated from nontargeted data. For Wisconsin species, the model described actual locations in the field fairly well (kappa = 0.51, 0.19, P < 0.01), and targeted sampling did detect more species than nontargeted sampling with less sampling effort (chi2 = 47.42, P < 0.01). From these findings, we conclude that habitat suitability models can be highly useful tools for guiding invasive species monitoring, and we support the use of an iterative sampling design for guiding such efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Centaurea / physiology*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Demography
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Introduced Species*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Pastinaca / physiology*
  • United States