Service or Tool

Edgar: Climate Change Impact on the Distributions of Australian Bird Species

James Cook University
James Cook University ( "isOwnedBy) James Cook University ( "isOwnedBy)
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Access rights

Open access is provided to the site as well as the data downloads. To provided vetting information on occurrence records, end-users must be registered with ALA. Links to register with ALA are made available within the log-in screen.


The source code for this project is licensed under a BSD 3-Clause licence

Brief description

The Edgar site provides users with access to projected environmental suitability maps for Australian Bird species under various climate change scenarios as well as the  "cleaned" occurrence records used to generate the maps. The site provides visualisations of the datasets as well as download facilities. The species data used on the site is provided by the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA).

Full description

Currently there is a general lack of engagement and knowledge transfer between professional researchers and end-users of research (general public, conservation managers, decision-makers, etc.). This is reflected in a general lack of acceptance and acknowledgement by the general public of the potential impacts of climate change. Indeed, the ABC reported 27 June 2011 that

"The Lowy Institute's annual poll asked about 1,000 people for their opinions ... The poll shows that there has been a steep fall in the number of Australians who think climate change is a serious problem which needs addressing now."

Research individuals or groups spend considerable time and effort to bring together species occurrence data, but substantial effort is still required and limitations exist with respect to a) the accuracy of the localities, removing only blatantly incorrect records outside known locality, or b) using painstaking manual processes whereby occurrence records are presented as hardcopy maps to “species experts.”  These experts then write metadata (e.g. provenance information), corrections, and other information about further records on the maps and return the comments for interpretation. This is a cumbersome, labour-intensive, and error-prone process which needs to be repeated for each project.

There is currently a scarcity of transparent online tools which integrate species distribution data, locality data with climate change scenarios in an integrated fashion which will facilitate the modelling of current and future species distributions based on climate scenarios.

The Edgar site provides a tool that reuses data available with Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) and the Tropical Data Hub to allow a broad range of end-users to:

  1. explore with the potential impacts of climate change on a wide range of species in Australia; and
  2. engage in improving our understanding of the species and the modelling of species distributions.


The project produces two sets of data for each species. Users visiting the project website can browse visual representations of both datasets and download data from the site or from the Tropical Data Hub.

The first production of data is a "cleaned" collection of species occurrence records. This is comprised of observation records imported from ALA and filtered through:

  • invalid record removal based on ALA metadata
  • plausibility checking based on species ranges supplied by BirdLife Australia
  • crowd-sourced classification of occurrences
  • manual resolution of conflicting classifications

in order to select only those occurrences that represent genuine survival in the wild.

Website visitors that have accounts with the ALA can log in and contribute occurrence record classifications. Feedback obtained is forwarded to ALA along with information relating to the final classification of occurrence records.

The second production of data is a set of current and future climate suitability maps for each species. These use the cleaned occurrence records and the MaxEnt algorithm to calculate climatological sensitivities for the species, then use those sensitivities to map climate/species suitability across Australia.  Future climate data is projected using climate change scenarios described by the IPCC AR5 report and consolidated across a number of climate models, such that a climate suitability map is available for each intersection of a climate scenario and year modelled.

Both data sets are regenerated as new information is obtained and the updated data is immediately available. Dataset descriptions in metadata stores are periodically updated to reflect the latest information.


The software consists of 

  • a CakePHP application to provide the web interface
  • collection of python scripts for downloading occurrence records from ALA services
  • collection of python scripts for running the modelling software

The system requires MapServer, PHP with MapScript module installed, PostgreSQL with PostGIS installed, and a web server.

This software has been build with support from the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy Program and the Education Investment Fund (EIF) Super Science Initiative, as well as through the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation (QCIF).

Delivery method


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