Reconstructing the Mexican Tropical Dry Forests via an Autoecological Niche Approach: Reconsidering the Ecosystem Boundaries
We used Ecological Niche Modeling (ENM) of individual species of two taxonomic groups (plants and birds) in order to reconstruct the climatic distribution of Tropical Dry Forests (TDFs) in Mexico and to analyze their boundaries with other terrestrial ecosystems. The reconstruction for TDFs’ distribution was analyzed considering the prediction and omission errors based upon the combination of species, obtained from the overlap of individual models (only plants, only birds, and all species combined). Two verifications were used: a primary vegetation map and 100 independent TDFs localities. We performed a Principal Component (PCA) and Discriminant Analysis (DA) to evaluate the variation in the environmental variables and ecological overlap among ecosystems. The modeling strategies showed differences in the ecological patterns and prediction areas, where the “all species combined” model (with a threshold of ≥10 species) was the best strategy to use in the TDFs reconstruction. We observed a concordance of 78% with the primary vegetation map and a prediction of 98% of independent locality records. Although PCA and DA tests explained 75.78% and 97.9% of variance observed, respectively, we observed an important overlap among the TDFs with other adjacent ecosystems, confirming the existence of transition zones among them. We successfully modeled the distribution of Mexican TDFs using a number of bioclimatic variables and co-distributed species. This autoecological niche approach suggests the necessity of rethinking the delimitations of ecosystems based on the recognition of transition zones among them in order to understand the real nature of communities and association patterns of species.