Action plans for the conservation of biodiversity rely on forecasts of how species and natural systems will change in the future, and how they will respond to alternative management strategies. In an ideal world we – scientists and ecologists – would be able to provide those forecasts with great accuracy. The problem about making such predictions is that they cannot be validated without the ability to travel in time. Lacking this possibility, decision makers have to rely on current model predictions for making decisions that will have consequences on the species in the long term. But how do we know if our current predictions about the future distributions of species are accurate?
In a new study published in Global Ecology and Biogeography, we evaluated what aspects of the data used to fit models, the model settings and the species traits determine robust predictions of species distributions into the future.