Rocchini, D., Tordoni, E., Marchetto, E., Marcantonio, M., Barbosa, A.M., Bazzichetto, M., Beierkuhnlein, C., Castelnuovo, E., Gatti, R.C., Chiarucci, A., Chieffallo, L., Re, D.D., Musciano, M.D., Foody, G.M., Gabor, L., Garzon-Lopez, C.X., Guisan, A., Hattab, T., Hortal, J., Kunin, W.E., Jordán, F., Lenoir, J., Mirri, S., Moudrý, V., Naimi, B., Nowosad, J., Sabatini, F.M., Schweiger, A.H., Šímová, P., Tessarolo, G., Zannini, P. & Malavasi, M. (2023) A quixotic view of spatial bias in modelling the distribution of species and their diversity. npj Biodiversity, 2, 10. doi:10.1038/s44185-023-00014-6
Ecological processes are often spatially and temporally structured, potentially leading to autocorrelation either in environmental variables or species distribution data. Because of that, spatially-biased in-situ samples or predictors might affect the outcomes of ecological models used to infer the geographic distribution of species and diversity. There is a vast heterogeneity of methods and approaches to assess and measure spatial bias; this paper aims at addressing the spatial component of data-driven biases in species distribution modelling, and to propose potential solutions to explicitly test and account for them. Our major goal is not to propose methods to remove spatial bias from the modelling procedure, which would be impossible without proper knowledge of all the processes generating it, but rather to propose alternatives to explore and handle it. In particular, we propose and describe three main strategies that may provide a fair account of spatial bias, namely: (i) how to represent spatial bias; (ii) how to simulate null models based on virtual species for testing biogeographical and species distribution hypotheses; and (iii) how to make use of spatial bias – in particular related to sampling effort – as a leverage instead of a hindrance in species distribution modelling. We link these strategies with good practice in accounting for spatial bias in species distribution modelling.