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Revista mexicana de biodiversidad

versión On-line ISSN 2007-8706


SOBERON, Jorge  y  TOWNSEND PETERSON, A. Ecological niche shifts and environmental space anisotropy: a cautionary note. Rev. Mex. Biodiv. [online]. 2011, vol.82, n.4, pp. 1348-1355. ISSN 2007-8706.

The anisotropic structure of climatic space may cause significant (and to a large extent unappreciated) non-evolutionary niche shifts. This can be seen mostly in the context of spatial transferability of ecological niche models. We explore this effect using a virtual species in the United States. We created a simple virtual species by postulating its fundamental niche as an ellipse in a two-dimensional realistic climatic space. The climatic combinations defined by the ellipse were projected in the geography of the United States and 2 regions of equal area were selected. The structure of niche in the 2 areas is compared. It is shown that the 2 regions have differently positioned subsets of the environmental space, which creates "shifts" in the realized niches despite the fact that no evolution and no biotic interactions are present. The most parsimonious hypothesis when ecological niche modeling reveals shifts in the realized niche is that environmental space is heterogeneous. Without considering differences in the structure of environmental space no speculation about niche evolution or the role of competitors should be attempted.

Palabras llave : fundamental niche; realized niche; existing niche; ecological niche modeling; species distribution modeling; environmental space.

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