An operational workflow for producing periodic estimates of species occupancy at national scales
Policy makers require high-level summaries of biodiversity change. However, deriving such summaries from raw biodiversity data is a complex process involving several intermediary stages. In this paper, we describe an operational workflow for generating annual estimates of species occupancy at national scales from raw species occurrence data, which can be used to construct a range of policy-relevant biodiversity indicators. We describe the workflow in detail: from data acquisition, data assessment and data manipulation, through modelling, model evaluation, application and dissemination. At each stage, we draw on our experience developing and applying the workflow for almost a decade to outline the challenges that analysts might face. These challenges span many areas of ecology, taxonomy, data science, computing and statistics. In our case, the principal output of the workflow is annual estimates of occupancy, with measures of uncertainty, for over 5000 species in each of several defined ‘regions’ (e.g. countries, protected areas, etc.) of the UK from 1970 to 2019. This data product corresponds closely to the notion of a species distribution Essential Biodiversity Variable (EBV). Throughout the paper, we highlight methodologies that might not be applicable outside of the UK and suggest alternatives. We also highlight areas where the workflow can be improved; in particular, methods are needed to mitigate and communicate the risk of bias arising from the lack of representativeness that is typical of biodiversity data. Finally, we revisit the ‘ideal’ and ‘minimal’ criteria for species distribution EBVs laid out in previous contributions and pose some outstanding questions that should be addressed as a matter of priority. Going forward, we hope that this paper acts as a template for research groups around the world seeking to develop similar data products. © 2023 The Authors. Biological Reviews published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Cambridge Philosophical Society.
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