If we find a species and document its presence at a location, then we can say with certainty it occurs there. If we do not find that species, however, it’s a little more complicated: does the species occur there but we failed to cross paths with it on our search, or is this location truly outside of its range? NatureServe uses advanced ecological modeling techniques to develop predictions of where imperiled species are most likely to occur.
Species Habitat Modeling
It’s impossible for our scientists to inventory everywhere. Using the mapped locations of the species we have documented, and data characterizing environmental conditions at those locations, NatureServe develops models that predict where the habitat for at-risk species is likely to be found. The models produce maps of species distributions, which helps rule out places where at-risk species probably don’t occur while directing new field surveys and conservation efforts to places that matter most. Better species distribution maps save time, minimize conflict, and make conservation more efficient.
Building off our habitat models, NatureServe has released a portfolio of maps that identify areas critical to sustaining our nation's rich biodiversity.
More generalized information on species distributions also helps land managers, scientists, and the interested public understand which species might be encountered in a given area. NatureServe generates range maps, which depict the broad geographic areas in which species are found, using our documented occurrence data and the collective knowledge of our network of expert scientists.