NicheMapR – a general system for mechanistic niche modelling

Michael R. Kearney1, Warren P. Porter2

1 The University of Melbourne, School of BioSciences, Victoria, 3010

2 The University of Wisconsin, School of BioSciences, Victoria, 3010

Mechanistic niche modelling involves the computation of heat, water and nutritional budgets of organisms as a function of their environments. Such models can be used to make powerful inferences about the effects of past, present and future climates on the behaviour, phenology, distribution and abundance of organisms. However, their application has been hampered by a lack of freely available, easy-to-use software. Here I will present an R-based implementation of an integrated set of energy and mass budget models of organisms and their microclimates. The models are coded in Fortran, based on the biophysical models in the “Niche Mapper” package originally developed by WPP, but can now be called from R. The NicheMapR package includes a microclimate model with new capabilities to model soil moisture, rocky shores and snow. It also includes an ectotherm model for computing organismal heat and water balances, and activity budgets. The ectotherm model now also includes an optional implementation of Kooijman’s Standard Dynamic Energy Budget model for computing trajectories of development, growth and reproduction. I will provide an overview of the models, including example applications and how they can be accessed.