, Volume 59, Issue 5, pp 451–467 | Cite as

Integrating expert knowledge and ecological niche models to estimate Mexican primates’ distribution

  • Edith Calixto-Pérez
  • Jesús Alarcón-Guerrero
  • Gabriel Ramos-Fernández
  • Pedro Américo D. Dias
  • Ariadna Rangel-Negrín
  • Monica Améndola-Pimenta
  • Cristina Domingo
  • Víctor Arroyo-Rodríguez
  • Gilberto Pozo-Montuy
  • Braulio Pinacho-Guendulain
  • Tania Urquiza-Haas
  • Patricia Koleff
  • Enrique Martínez-MeyerEmail author
Original Article


Ecological niche modeling is used to estimate species distributions based on occurrence records and environmental variables, but it seldom includes explicit biotic or historical factors that are important in determining the distribution of species. Expert knowledge can provide additional valuable information regarding ecological or historical attributes of species, but the influence of integrating this information in the modeling process has been poorly explored. Here, we integrated expert knowledge in different stages of the niche modeling process to improve the representation of the actual geographic distributions of Mexican primates (Ateles geoffroyi, Alouatta pigra, and A. palliata mexicana). We designed an elicitation process to acquire information from experts and such information was integrated by an iterative process that consisted of reviews of input data by experts, production of ecological niche models (ENMs), and evaluation of model outputs to provide feedback. We built ENMs using the maximum entropy algorithm along with a dataset of occurrence records gathered from a public source and records provided by the experts. Models without expert knowledge were also built for comparison, and both models, with and without expert knowledge, were evaluated using four validation metrics that provide a measure of accuracy for presence-absence predictions (specificity, sensitivity, kappa, true skill statistic). Integrating expert knowledge to build ENMs produced better results for potential distributions than models without expert knowledge, but a much greater improvement in the transition from potential to realized geographic distributions by reducing overprediction, resulting in better representations of the actual geographic distributions of species. Furthermore, with the combination of niche models and expert knowledge we were able to identify an area of sympatry between A. palliata mexicana and A. pigra. We argue that the inclusion of expert knowledge at different stages in the construction of niche models in an explicit and systematic fashion is a recommended practice as it produces overall positive results for representing realized species distributions.


Expert knowledge Ecological niche modeling Species distribution models Alouatta palliata mexicana Alouatta pigra Ateles geoffroyi Maxent Mexico 



We are grateful to the 46 primatologists who participated in the elicitation process and shared their knowledge with us (Appendix 1). The elicitation workshop was funded by the Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad and the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, México. Sergio Díaz-Martínez provided support for the edition of images and helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. GRF thanks the Instituto Politécnico Nacional and CONACYT (grant 157656). GPM thanks the colleagues of COBIUS A.C., the regional citizens who participated in the monitoring sessions and the directors of the natural protected areas: Selva El Ocote, Sepultura, Encrucijada, Sian Kaan, Yum Balam, Balam Kaax, UayMil, Cañón de Sumidero, Laguna de Términos, and Pantanos de Centla, from CONANP, for their sponsorship by the PROMOBI y PROCER 2013-2016 programs. ECP thanks the Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas (PCB) at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México for logistic and academic support. This paper is part of the requirements for the PhD in Sciences at the PCB-UNAM. ECP was supported by a graduate scholarship from the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, Mexico.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edith Calixto-Pérez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jesús Alarcón-Guerrero
    • 3
  • Gabriel Ramos-Fernández
    • 4
    • 5
  • Pedro Américo D. Dias
    • 6
  • Ariadna Rangel-Negrín
    • 6
  • Monica Améndola-Pimenta
    • 7
  • Cristina Domingo
    • 8
  • Víctor Arroyo-Rodríguez
    • 9
  • Gilberto Pozo-Montuy
    • 10
    • 11
  • Braulio Pinacho-Guendulain
    • 10
  • Tania Urquiza-Haas
    • 3
  • Patricia Koleff
    • 3
  • Enrique Martínez-Meyer
    • 1
    • 12
    Email author
  1. 1.Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  2. 2.Posgrado en Ciencias BiológicasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  3. 3.Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la BiodiversidadMexico CityMexico
  4. 4.Unidad Interdisciplinaria en Ingeniería y Tecnologías Avanzadas, Instituto Politécnico NacionalMexico CityMexico
  5. 5.Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en Sistemas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  6. 6.Primate Behavioral Ecology LabInstituto de Neuroetología, Universidad VeracruzanaVeracruzMexico
  7. 7.Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Unidad MéridaYucatánMexico
  8. 8.Institut Obert de CatalunyaBarcelonaSpain
  9. 9.Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMoreliaMexico
  10. 10.Conservación de la Biodiversidad del Usumacinta, ACTabascoMexico
  11. 11.Grupo de Biología para la Conservación, S. de R.L. de C.V.Puebla de ZaragozaMexico
  12. 12.Centro del Cambio Global y la Sustentabilidad, ACVillahermosaMexico

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