The contribution of small collections to species distribution modelling: A case study from Fuireneae (Cyperaceae)

Heather E. Glon, Benjamin W. Heumann, J. Richard Carter, Jessica M. Bartek, Anna K. Monfils

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The recent and rapid digitization of biodiversity data from natural history collection (NHC) archives has enriched collections based data repositories; this data continues to inform studies of species' geographic distributions. Here we investigate the relative impact of plant data from small natural history collections (collections with < 100,000 specimens) on species distributional models in an effort to document the potential of data from small NHCs to contribute to and inform biodiversity research. We modelled suitable habitat of five test case species from Fuireneae (Cyperaceae) in the United States using specimen records available via the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and that of data ready to mobilize from two regional small herbaria. Data were partitioned into three datasets based on their source: 1) collections-based records from large NHCs accessed GBIF, 2) collections-based records from small NHCs accessed from GBIF, and 3) collections-based records from two small regional herbaria not yet mobilized to GBIF. We extracted and evaluated the ecological niche represented for each of the three datasets by applying dataset occurrences to 14 environmental factors, and we modelled habitat suitability using Maxent to compare the represented distribution of the environmental values among the datasets. Our analyses indicate that the data from small NHCs contributed unique information in both geographic and environmental space. When data from small collections were combined with data from large collections, species models of the ecological niche resulted in more refined predictions of habitat suitability, indicating that small collections can contribute unique occurrence data which enhance species distribution models by bridging geographic collection gaps and shifting modelled predictions of suitable habitat. Inclusion of specimen records from small collections in ongoing digitization efforts is essential for generating informed models of a species' niche and distribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-78
Number of pages12
JournalEcological Informatics
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Global biodiversity information facility
  • MaxEnt
  • Natural history collections
  • Species distribution modelling


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