DOI: 10.1101/454991Oct 29, 2018Paper

Improving the interpretability of species distribution models by using local approximations

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Boyan Angelov


Species Distribution Models (SDMs) are used to generate maps of realised and potential ecological niches for a given species. As any other machine learning technique they can be seen as "black boxes", due to a lack of interpretability. Advances in other areas of applied machine learning can be applied to remedy this problem. In this study we test a new tool relying on Local Interpretable Model-agnostic Explanations (LIME) by comparing its results of other known methods and ecological interpretations from domain experts. The findings confirm that LIME provides consistent and ecologically sound explanations of climate feature importance during the training of SDMs, and that the sdmexplain R package can be used with confidence.

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