|Title||virtualspecies, an R package to generate virtual species distributions|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2015|
|Authors||Leroy, B, Meynard, CN, Bellard, C, Courchamp, F|
virtualspecies is a freely available package for R designed to generate virtual species distributions, a procedure increasingly used in ecology to improve species distribution models. This package combines the existing methodological approaches with the objective of generating virtual species distributions with increased ecological realism. The package includes (1) generating the probability of occurrence of a virtual species from a spatial set of environmental conditions (i.e., environmental suitability), with two different approaches; (2) converting the environmental suitability into presence-absence with a probabilistic approach; (3) introducing dispersal limitations in the realised virtual species distributions and (4) sampling occurrences with different biases in the sampling procedure. The package was designed to be extremely flexible, to allow users to simulate their own defined species-environment relationships, as well as to provide a fine control over every simulation parameter. The package also includes a function to generate random virtual species distributions. We provide a simple example in this paper showing how increasing ecological realism of the virtual species impacts the predictive performance of species distribution models. We expect that this new package will be valuable to researchers willing to test techniques and protocols of species distribution models as well as various biogeographical hypotheses.