Abbie Jones

McGill University
Ph.D. candidate

Supervisor: Brian Leung
Laura Pollock
Start: 2019-09-03
End: 2026-04-30


Modelling fine-scale floral biodiversity across continents: at the crossroads of plant biodiversity, nature’s contributions to people, and equity
Describing the spatial distribution of species is vital for successful conservation policies; however, geographic species occurrence data are rarely complete and are vulnerable to systematic biases. Species distribution models (SDMs) are commonly used to estimate species ranges by joining occurrence data of a species of interest to related predictors (e.g., environmental, socio-economic) with the goal of accurately predicting a species repartition in a particular habitat. While a useful tool, SDMs have weaknesses: they are sensitive to biases (i.e., spatial or taxonomical) present in the occurrence databases on which they are fitted. These biases translate into imperfect detections, harming conservation efforts. The BaK model, a novel integrative SDM, derives an ameliorated estimation approach by combining opportunistic data with systematic surveys to fit bias-adjustment kernels, resulting in improved predictive power and reduced underestimations. The aim of my doctorate thesis will be to use the BaK SDM framework as a tool to elucidate pertinent ecological questions concerning large-scale distributions of plant biodiversity, endemism, systematic data bias sources, ecosystem services, and socioeconomic equity in access to nature - using the data-rich European continent as my case study. As my first chapter, I built bias-adjustment kernels for the European flora using available plant species data. Using the biodiversity estimates I generated, I will then focus on spatial prioritization in further chapters, identifying hotspots in Europe where endemism overlaps with key indicators identified in the Nature’s Contributions to People (NCPs) framework, such as pollination, carbon sequestration, and socioeconomic equity of access to greenery. Vitally, I will specifically assess these hotspots for complementarity with the extensive EU Natura2000 protective area network, which is slotted for expansion in the next decade. My project will provide the most complete vegetation biodiversity baseline for Europe to date, with biodiversity estimates corrected for regional or taxonomical biases, thus increasing predictive ability. Such a baseline will be important for future research addressing fundamental or applied ecological topics concerning plant distributions on varying geographic scales.


invasive species, SDMs, biodiversity, Europe, NCPs, ecosystem services, spatial prioritization, policy , Data bias, Species Traits


1- Zooplankton assemblage and body size responses to severe lake eutrophication from agricultural activities near mink farms in Nova Scotia, Canada
Jones, A, A Labaj, J Campbell, N Libera, J Kurek,
2022 Journal of Plankton Research