Polar Biology

, Volume 32, Issue 12, pp 1717–1729 | Cite as

Modeling the distribution of white spruce (Picea glauca) for Alaska with high accuracy: an open access role-model for predicting tree species in last remaining wilderness areas

  • Bettina OhseEmail author
  • Falk Huettmann
  • Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond
  • Glenn P. Juday
Original Paper


Most wilderness areas still lack accurate distribution information on tree species. We met this need with a predictive GIS modeling approach, using freely available digital data and computer programs to efficiently obtain high-quality species distribution maps. Here we present a digital map with the predicted distribution of white spruce (Picea glauca) in Alaska (4 km resolution, accuracy over 90%). Our presented concept represents a role-model for predicting tree species distribution for remote areas world-wide. Although this model intends to be accurate in making predictions rather than to give detailed biological mechanistic explanations, it can also be used as a baseline for further research and testable hypothesis on the importance of the environmental variables used to build a generalizable model. Further, we emphasize that work like presented here is a pre-condition for assessing human impacts and impacts of climate change on species distribution in a quantitative and transparent fashion, allowing for improved sustainable decision-making world-wide.


Species distribution models (SDM) Alaska Tree species Predictive modeling Open access (OA) White spruce Picea glauca 



Alaska Geospatial Data Clearinghouse


Committee on Data for Science and Technology


Environmental Systems Research Institute


Federal Geographic Data Committee


Forest inventory and analysis


Geographic information system


International Council for Science


Inverse distance weighting


International Polar Year


North American Datum of 1983


National Biological Information Infrastructure


Normalized difference vegetation index


National Science Foundation


Open access


Organisation for Economic Collaboration and Development


Parameter-elevation regressions on independent slopes model


Receiver operating characteristic


Species distribution models



We want to thank everybody who helped: Data for model evaluation were kindly supplied by C. Roland (Central Alaska Network Vegetation Monitoring Program, National Park Service), T. Loomis (ABRinc), S. Winslow (University of Alaska, Fairbanks), and K. Winterberger (Pacific Northwest Experiment Station). We furthermore want to thank V. Steen and T. McMillan for fruitful discussions. Of course, we highly appreciate the contributions of the two reviewers, who significantly helped improve this article. Thanks also to the UAF Department of Natural Resources Management, as well as the Department of Biology and Wildlife for providing technical support. B. Ohse wants to thank the Ev. Studienwerk Villigst and the Fulbright Commission for help fund her studies at UAF. This is EWHALE lab publication # 47.

Supplementary material

300_2009_671_MOESM1_ESM.doc (179 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC179 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bettina Ohse
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Falk Huettmann
    • 3
  • Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond
    • 4
  • Glenn P. Juday
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Botany and Landscape EcologyUniversity of GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany
  2. 2.Forest Science DepartmentUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  3. 3.EWHALE Lab, Biology and Wildlife Department, Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  4. 4.Herbarium and Department of Biology and Wildlife, Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska Museum of the NorthFairbanksUSA

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