On the inadequacy of species distribution models for modelling the spread of SARS-CoV-2: response to Araújo and Naimi


The ongoing pandemic of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is causing significant damage to public health and economic livelihoods, and is putting significant strains on healthcare services globally. This unfolding emergency has prompted the preparation and dissemination of the article “Spread of SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus likely to be constrained by climate” by Araújo and Naimi (2020). The authors present the results of an ensemble forecast made from a suite of species distribution models (SDMs), where they attempt to predict the suitability of the climate for the spread of SARS-CoV-2 over the coming months. They argue that climate is likely to be a primary regulator for the spread of the infection and that people in warm-temperate and cold climates are more vulnerable than those in tropical and arid climates. A central finding of their study is that the possibility of a synchronous global pandemic of SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely. Whilst we understand that the motivations behind producing such work are grounded in trying to be helpful, we demonstrate here that there are clear conceptual and methodological deficiencies with their study that render their results and conclusions invalid.

EcoEvoRxiv Preprints
Blas M. Benito
Blas M. Benito
Staff Researcher