An assessment of the effect of data partitioning on the performance of modelling algorithms for habitat suitability for ticks.
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Medical and Veterinary Entomology 22 (3): 248--257 (September 2008)

A comparison of the performance of five modelling methods using presence/absence (generalized additive models, discriminant analysis) or presence-only (genetic algorithm for rule-set prediction, ecological niche factor analysis, Gower distance) data for modelling the distribution of the tick species Boophilus decoloratus (Koch, 1844) (Acarina: Ixodidae) at a continental scale (Africa) using climate data was conducted. This work explicitly addressed the usefulness of clustering using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) to split original records and build partial models for each region (cluster) as a method of improving model performance. Models without clustering have a consistently lower performance (as measured by sensitivity and area under the curve AUC), although presence/absence models perform better than presence-only models. Two cluster-related variables, namely, prevalence (commonness of tick records in the cluster) and marginality (the relative position of the climate niche occupied by the tick in relation to that available in the cluster) greatly affect the performance of each model (P < 0.05). Both sensitivity and AUC are better for NDVI-derived clusters where the tick is more prevalent or its marginality is low. However, the total size of the cluster or its fragmentation (measured by Shannon's evenness index) did not affect the performance of models. Models derived separately for each cluster produced the best output but resulted in a patchy distribution of predicted occurrence. The use of such a method together with weighting procedures based on prevalence and marginality as derived from populations at each cluster produced a slightly lower predictive performance but a better estimation of the continental distribution of the tick. Therefore, cluster-derived models are able to effectively capture restricting conditions for different tick populations at a regional level. It is concluded that data partitioning is a powerful method with which to describe the climate niche of populations of a tick species, as adapted to local conditions. The use of this methodology greatly improves the performance of climate suitability models.
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