Do consensus models outperform individual models? Transferability evaluations of diverse modeling approaches for an invasive moth.
Transferability is key to many of the most novel and interesting applications of ecological niche models, such that maximizing predictive power of model transfers is crucial. Here, we explored consensus methods as a means of reducing uncertainty and improving model transferability in anticipating the potential distribution of an invasive moth (Hyphantria cunea). Individual native-range niche models were calibrated using seven modelling algorithms and four environmental datasets, representing different degrees of dimensionality, spatial correlation, and ecological relevance, and showing different degrees of climate niche expansion. Four consensus methods were used to combine individual niche models; we assessed transferability of consensus models and the individual models used to generate them. The results suggested that ideal criteria for environmental variable selection vary among algorithms, as different algorithms showed different sensitivities to spatial dimensionality and correlation. Consensus models reflected the central tendency of individual models, and reduced uncertainty by consolidating consistency across individual models, but did not outperform individual models. The question of whether interpolation accuracy comes at the expense of transferability suggests caution in planning methodologies for processing niche models to predict invasive potential. These explorations outline approaches by which to reduce uncertainty and improve niche model transferability with vital implications for ensemble forecasting.