Real, R., Barbosa, A.M. & Vargas, J.M. Environ Ecol Stat (2006) 13: 237. doi:10.1007/s10651-005-0003-3
Logistic regression is a statistical tool widely used for predicting species’ potential distributions starting from presence/absence data and a set of independent variables. However, logistic regression equations compute probability values based not only on the values of the predictor variables but also on the relative proportion of presences and absences in the dataset, which does not adequately describe the environmental favourability for or against species presence. A few strategies have been used to circumvent this, but they usually imply an alteration of the original data or the discarding of potentially valuable information. We propose a way to obtain from logistic regression an environmental favourability function whose results are not affected by an uneven proportion of presences and absences. We tested the method on the distribution of virtual species in an imaginary territory. The favourability models yielded similar values regardless of the variation in the presence/absence ratio. We also illustrate with the example of the Pyrenean desman’s (Galemys pyrenaicus) distribution in Spain. The favourability model yielded more realistic potential distribution maps than the logistic regression model. Favourability values can be regarded as the degree of membership of the fuzzy set of sites whose environmental conditions are favourable to the species, which enables applying the rules of fuzzy logic to distribution modelling. They also allow for direct comparisons between models for species with different presence/absence ratios in the study area. This makes them more useful to estimate the conservation value of areas, to design ecological corridors, or to select appropriate areas for species reintroductions.
Biogeographic inferencesDistribution modellingFuzzy logicGalemys pyrenaicusModel comparisonPresence/absence ratioVirtual species