Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 605–621 | Cite as

Distribution of medium- to large-sized African mammals based on habitat suitability models

  • Luigi Boitani
  • Iacopo Sinibaldi
  • Fabio Corsi
  • Alessio De Biase
  • Ilaria d’Inzillo Carranza
  • Maria Ravagli
  • Gabriella Reggiani
  • Carlo Rondinini
  • Patrizia Trapanese
Original Paper


The knowledge of the areas inhabited by a species within its distribution range and the connections among patches are critical pieces of information for successful conservation actions. The internal structure of the extent of occurrence (EO) of a species is almost always unknown, even for “well-known” flagship species. We developed a methodology to infer the area of occupancy (AO) within the EO of a species using the limited available data. We present here the results of a three years project funded by European Union to develop high-resolution models of habitat suitability for 281 medium- to large-sized African mammals across the whole continent. The existing literature was reviewed and all data on the geographic distribution and environmental preferences of the selected species were collected. For each species, these data were then expressed in terms of key variables available as GIS layers at a resolution of 1 km2 over the entire African continent. The AO of each species was obtained merging the information on the ecological needs of the species and the values of ecological variables over the region identified as EO. The habitat suitability models were evaluated through direct field work in four countries (Morocco, Cameroon, Uganda, Botswana) chosen as representatives of the environmental and species diversity of Africa. More than 81% of models had positive true skill statistics (TSS) values, indicating models performing better than random. Rigorous modeling procedures supported by ad-hoc field evaluation allowed the production of high-resolution habitat suitability models useful for conservation applications.


Extent of occurrence Area of occupancy African mammals Habitat suitability models Model validation 



This study is an outcome of a project funded by the European Commission, grant n. B7-6200-94-15/VIII/ENV/1994/67. We thank E. Pironio, M. van Opstal, M. Jadot for assistance during project implementation. The analyses presented in this paper would not have been possible without the contributions of many people and organizations, and we would like to mention at least the following who provided data, collaboration, criticism and review: G. Amori, D. R. Baird, N. Burgess, J-P. d’Huart, R. East, R. Emslie, H. Hoeck, P. Jackson, H. Klingel, M. G. L. Mills, H. Van Rompaey, D. Shackleton, C. Sillero Zubiri. Additional data was provided by FAO, WCMC, IUCN-SSC. Field work was carried out in collaboration with the University of Botswana (Gaborone), the Institut de Recherches Zootechniques et Veterinaires (Yaoundé), the Association Marocaine pour la Protection de l’Environnement (Rabat), and the Makerere University Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (Kampala). J. T. Banser, M. Behangana, M. Dithlogo, G. Gabbi, A. Ghiurghi, B. Haddane, F. Kameni, T. R. Molefhe, B. H. Raseroka, G. B. Sekgororoane, D. B. Selepeng, El Ayachi Sehhar participated in the field work.


  1. Akçakaya HR, Ferson S (1990) RAMAS/space user manual: spatially structured population models for conservation biology. Applied Biomathematics, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Allouche O, Tsoar A, Kadmon R (2006) Assessing the accuracy of species distribution models: prevalence, kappa and the true skill statistics (TSS). J Appl Ecol 43:1223–1232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andelman SJ, Willig MR (2002) Alternative configurations of conservation reserves for Paraguayan bats: considerations of spatial scale. Cons Biol 16(5):1352–1363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Araujo MB (2004) Matching species with reserves–uncertainties from using data at different resolutions. Biol Cons 118(4):533–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balmford A, Mace G, Ginsberg J (1998) The challenges to conservation in a changing world: putting processes on the map. In: Mace G, Balmford A, Ginsberg J (eds) Conservation in a changing world. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Balmford A, Moore JL, Brooks T, Burgess N, Hansen LA, Williams P, Rahbek C (2001a) Conservation conflicts across Africa. Science 291:2616–2619PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Balmford A, Moore J, Brooks T, Burgess N, Hansen LA, Lovett JC, Tokumine S, Williams P, Rahbek C (2001b) People and biodiversity in Africa. Science 293:1591–1592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boitani L, Corsi F, Reggiani G (2004) Mapping African mammal distributions for conservation: how to get the most from limited data. In: Burgess N, D’Amico J, Underwood E, Dinerstein E, Olson D, Itoua I, Schipper J, Ricketts T, Newman K (eds) Terrestrial ecoregions of Africa and Madagascar. Island Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  9. Boone RB, Krohn WB (2000) Predicting broad scale occurrences of vertebrates in patchy landscapes. Lands Ecol 15(1):63–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boshoff AF, Kerley GIH, Cowling RM (2001) A pragmatic approach to estimating the distributions and spatial requirements of the medium- to large-sized mammals in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. Divers Distr 7(1–2):29–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brooks T, Balmford A, Burgess N, Fjeldsa J, Hansen LA, Moore J, Rahbek C, Williams PH (2001) Toward a blueprint for conservation in Africa. BioScience 51:613–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown JH (1995) Macroecology. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  13. Brown JH, Stevens GC, Kaufman DM (1996) The geographic range: size shape, boundaries, and internal structure. Ann Rev Ecol System 27:597–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burgess ND, de Klerk H, Fjeldsa J, Rahbek C (2000) A preliminary assessment of congruence between biodiversity patterns in Afrotropical forest birds and forest mammals. Ostrich 71:286–291Google Scholar
  15. Burgess ND, Rahbek C, Wugt Larsen F, Williams P, Balmford A (2002) How much of the vertebrate diversity of sub-Saharan Africa is catered for by recent conservation proposals? Biol Cons 107(3):327–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Burgess N, D’Amico J, Underwood E, Dinerstein E, Olson D, Itoua I, Schipper J, Ricketts T, Newman K (eds) (2004) Terrestrial ecoregions of Africa and Madagascar. Island Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  17. Burgman MA, Lindenmayer DB (1998) Conservation biology for the Australian environment. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  18. Butterfield BR, Csuti B, Scott JM (1994) Modeling vertebrate distributions for gap analysis. In: Miller RI (ed) Mapping the diversity of nature. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  19. Corsi F, De Leeuw I, Skidmore A (2000) Species distribution modelling with GIS. In: Boitani L, Fuller TK (eds) Research techniques in animal ecology. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Csuti B, Crist P (2000) Methods for developing terrestrial vertebrate distribution maps for gap analysis, ver. 2.0.0. Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Idaho, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  21. Da Fonseca GAB, Balmford A, Bibby C, Boitani L, Corsi F, Brooks T, Gascon C, Olivieri S, Mittermeier RA, Burgess N, Dinerstein E, Olson D, Hannah L, Lovett J, Moyer D, Rahbek C, Stuart S, Williams P (2000) Following Africa’s lead in setting priorities. Nature 405:393–394PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fielding AH, Bell JF (1997) A review of methods for the assessment of prediction errors in conservation presence/absence models. Envir Cons 24(1):38–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gaston KJ (1996) Species-range-size distributions: patterns, mechanisms and implications. Trends Ecol Evol 11(5):197–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gaston KJ (2003) The structure and dynamics of geographic ranges. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Gaston KJ, Blackburn TM (2000) Pattern and process in macroecology. Blackwell Science, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  26. Guisan A, Zimmerman NE (2000) Predictive habitat distribution models in ecology. Ecol Model 135(2–3):147–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Guisan A, Thuiller W (2005) Predicting species distribution: offering more than simple habitat models. Ecol Lett 8:993–1009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hanski I (1994) Patch occupancy dynamics in fragmented landscapes. Trends Ecol Evol 9:131–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hanski I, Moilanen A, Gyllenberg M (1996) Minimum viable metapopulation size. Am Nat 147:527–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Henebry GM, Merchant JW (2000) Geospatial data in time: limits and prospects for predicting species occurrences. In: Scott MJ, Heglund PJ, Morrison ML, Haufler JB, Raphael MG, Wall WA, Samson FB (eds) Predicting species occurrences: issues of accuracy and scale. Island Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  31. IUCN 2006 (2006) IUCN Red list of threatened species. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland (available at, accessed December 15th, 2006)
  32. Kerley GIH, Pressey RL, Cowling RM, Boshoff AF, Sims-Castley R (2003) Options for the conservation of large and medium-sized mammals in the Cape Floristic region hotspot, South Africa. Biol Cons 112(1–2):169–190 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kiester AR, Scott JM, Csuti B, Noss RF, Butterfield B, Sahr K, White D (1996) Conservation prioritization using GAP data. Cons Biol 10(5):1332–1342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kodric-Brown A, Brown JH (1993) Incomplete data sets in community ecology and biogeography: a cautionary tale. Ecol Mon 3:736–742Google Scholar
  35. Lawes MJ, Piper SE (1998) There is less to binary maps than meets the eye: the use of species distribution data in the southern African sub-region. S Afr J Sci 94:207–210Google Scholar
  36. Lawton JH (1996) Population abundances, geographic ranges and conservation: 1994 Witherby Lecture. Bird Study 43:3–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Loiselle BA, Howell CA, Graham CH, Goerck JM, Brooks T, Smith KG, Williams PH (2003) Avoiding pitfalls of using species distribution models in conservation planning. Cons Biol 17:1591–1600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Loveland TR, Reed BC, Brown JF, Ohlen DO, Zhu Z, Yang L, Merchant JW (2000) Development of a global land cover characteristics database and IGBP DISCover from 1 km AVHRR data. Int J Remote Sensing 21(6–7):1303–1330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mackey BG, Lindenmayer DB (2001) Towards a hierarchical framework for modelling the spatial distribution of animals. J Biogeogr 28(9):1147–1166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maddock A, Du Plessis MA (1999) Can species data only be appropriately used to conserve biodiversity? Biodiv Cons 8(5):603–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Margules CR, Pressey RL (2000) Systematic conservation planning. Nature 405:243–253PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Margules CR, Stein JL (1989) Patterns in the distributions of species and the selection of nature reserves: an example from the Eucalyptus forests in south-eastern New South Wales. Biol Cons 50:219–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McGarigal K, Marks BJ (1994) FRAGSTATS spatial pattern analysis program for quantifying landscape structure. Version 2.0. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OregonGoogle Scholar
  44. Myers N, Mittermeier RA, Mittermeier CG, Fonseca GAB, Kent J (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403:853–858PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Olson DM, Dinerstein E (1998) The Global 200: a representation approach to conserving the earth’s most biologically valuable ecoregions. Cons Biol 2(3):502–515 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Prendergast JR, Quinn RM, Lawton JH (1999) The gaps between theory and practice in selecting nature reserves. Cons Biol 13(3):484–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Reddy S, Davalos LM (2003) Geographical sampling bias and its implications for conservation priorities in Africa. J Biogeogr 30(11):1719–1727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rodrigues ASL, Andelman SJ, Bakarr MI, Boitani L, Brooks TM, Cowling RM, Fishpool LDC, da Fonseca GAB, Gaston KJ, Hoffmann M, Long JS, Marquet PA, Pilgrim JD, Pressey RL, Schipper J, Sechrest W, Stuart SN, Underhill LG, Waller RW, Watts MEJ, Xie Y (2004) Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity. Nature 428:640–643PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rondinini C, Stuart S, Boitani L (2005) Habitat suitability models and the shortfall in conservation planning for African vertebrates. Cons Biol 19:1488–1497CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rondinini C, Boitani L, Grantham H, Wilson KA, Possingham HP (2006) Tradeoffs of different species data types for use in systematic conservation planning. Ecol Lett 9:1136–1145PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Scott JM, Davis F, Csuti B, Noss R, Butterfield B, Groves C, Anderson H, Caicco S, D’Erchia F, Edwards TC Jr, Ullman J, Wright RG (1993) Gap analysis, a geographic approach to protection of biological diversity. Wildl Monogr 123:41Google Scholar
  52. Scott JM, Heglund PJ, Haufler JB, Morrison M, Raphael MG, Wall WB, Samson F (eds) (2002) Predicting species occurrences: issues of accuracy and scale. Island Press, Ithaca, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Thomas CD, Jordano D, Lewis OT, Hill JK, Sutcliffe OL, Thomas JA (1998) Butterfly distributional patterns, processes and conservation. In: Mace G, Balmford A, Ginsberg J (eds) Conservation in a changing world. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  54. Van Jaarsveld AS, Gaston KJ, Chown SL, Freitag S (1998) Throwing biodiversity out with the binary data? S Afr J Sci 94:210–214Google Scholar
  55. White FJ (1983) The vegetation of Africa: a descriptive memoir to accompany the UNESCO/AETFAT/UNSO vegetation map of Africa. UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  56. Williams PH, Margules CR, Hilbert DW (2002) Data requirements and data sources for biodiversity priority area selection. J Biosci 27(suppl. 2):327–338PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wilson DE, Reeder DM (1993) Mammal species of the world, 2nd edn. Smithsonian Institution Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  58. WRI (1995) Africa data sampler. World Resource Institute, Washington DCGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luigi Boitani
    • 1
  • Iacopo Sinibaldi
    • 2
  • Fabio Corsi
    • 2
  • Alessio De Biase
    • 1
  • Ilaria d’Inzillo Carranza
    • 2
  • Maria Ravagli
    • 2
  • Gabriella Reggiani
    • 2
  • Carlo Rondinini
    • 1
  • Patrizia Trapanese
    • 2
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell’UomoUniversity of RomeRomaItaly
  2. 2.Istituto Ecologia ApplicataRomaItaly

Personalised recommendations