Researchers in the Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation (BEC) Research Group of the IIASA Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program released  an R-package – a collection of code, data, and documentation in a standardized format – which allows the integration of heterogeneous biodiversity observation sources.

One of the key questions that can be addressed using the ibis framework is how climate change and land-use practices affect the suitability of habitats and the global distribution of species.

The framework uses species distribution models (SDMs), a common technique for evaluating how biodiversity is expected to change under current and future conditions. Traditional modeling approaches rely on a single  data source, ignoring all other valuable sources of information such as expert opinion or data on habitats and threats. What sets this framework apart is its ability to incorporate such information into predictions, thus  harnessing a wealth of previously untapped biodiversity data.

“A growing number of researchers are using this tool to answer policy-relevant questions,” explains Martin Jung, a senior researcher in the BEC Research Group who contributed to the framework. “For example, we use it in the BIOCLIMA project in partnership with the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and EuroCARE, where we assess the implications of European climate and biodiversity strategies.”

According to Jung, while models aid policy decisions, the challenge for biodiversity assessments is data availability. Future plans involve enhancing options for mechanistic SDMs, and relying less on observational data and more on parameters.