Mistaking geography for biology: Inferring processes from species distributions

Dan L. Warren*, Marcel Cardillo, Dan F. Rosauer, Daniel I. Bolnick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

167 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Over the past few decades, there has been a rapid proliferation of statistical methods that infer evolutionary and ecological processes from data on species distributions. These methods have led to considerable new insights, but they often fail to account for the effects of historical biogeography on present-day species distributions. Because the geography of speciation can lead to patterns of spatial and temporal autocorrelation in the distributions of species within a clade, this can result in misleading inferences about the importance of deterministic processes in generating spatial patterns of biodiversity. In this opinion article, we discuss ways in which patterns of species distributions driven by historical biogeography are often interpreted as evidence of particular evolutionary or ecological processes. We focus on three areas that are especially prone to such misinterpretations: community phylogenetics, environmental niche modelling, and analyses of beta diversity (compositional turnover of biodiversity).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-580
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Volume29
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014

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