Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Experimental verification of ecological niche modeling in a heterogeneous environment.

Abstract

The current range of ecological habitats occupied by a species reflects a combination of the ecological tolerance of the species, dispersal limitation, and competition. Whether the current distribution of a species accurately reflects its niche has important consequences for the role of ecological niche modelling in predicting changes in species ranges as the result of biological invasions and climate change. We employed a detailed data set of species occurrence and spatial variation in biotic and abiotic attributes to model the niche of a native California annual plant, Collinsia sparsiflora. We tested the robustness of our model for both the realized and fundamental niche by planting seeds collected from four populations, representing two ecotypes, into plots that fully represented the five-dimensional niche space described by our model. The model successfully predicted which habitats allowed for C. sparsiflora persistence, but only for one of the two source ecotypes. Our results show that substantial niche divergence has occurred in our sample of four study populations, illustrating the importance of adequately sampling and describing within-species variation in niche modelling.