Our January issue is now online! Our first issue of the year contains 17 brilliant articles about the latest methods in ecology and evolution.

This month we have methods for testing publication bias in meta-analyses, managing uncertainty in systematic conservation planning and much more! Read on to find out about this month’s featured articles.

Methods for testing publication bias (open access) Publication bias threatens the validity of quantitative evidence from meta-analyses as it results in some findings being overrepresented in meta-analytic datasets. Unfortunately, methods to test for the presence of publication bias, or assess its impact on meta-analytic results, are unsuitable for datasets with high heterogeneity and non-independence, as is common in ecology and evolutionary biology. Here, Nakagawa et al. first review both classic and emerging publication bias tests, then propose a new method using multilevel meta-regression, which can model both heterogeneity and non-independence, by extending existing regression-based methods.

A model selection approach to structural equation modelling Structural equation modelling (SEM) can illuminate complex interaction networks in ecology, but selecting optimally-complex, data-supported SEM models and quantifying their uncertainty are difficult processes. Here, Garrido et al. recommend a formal model selection approach (MSA) that uses information criteria. Using a suite of numerical simulations, they compare MSA-SEM with two traditional methods, finding that MSA-SEM exhibits superior, unbiased results under the suboptimal realistic conditions characteristic of ecological studies. They then provide a road map for MSA-SEM and demonstrate its use via a case study.

enerscape (open access) Ecological processes and biodiversity patterns are strongly affected by how animals move through the landscape. However, it remains challenging to predict animal movement and space use. Here, Berti et al. present enerscape, their new R package for quantifying and predicting animal movement in real landscapes based on energy expenditure. enerscape integrates a general locomotory model for terrestrial animals with GIS tools in order to map energy costs of movement in a given environment, resulting in energy landscapes that reflect how energy expenditures may shape habitat use.

High-quality data generation in participatory research (open access) Participatory approaches are widely used by researchers to gather data and insight about how the environment is perceived, valued and used. The participatory activities may be creating information as part of curiosity-driven blue-skies research or to inform policy/practise decision-making. The quality and usability of data derived from participatory approaches are heavily influenced by how activities are conducted. Here, Maund et al. share a practical guide consisting of a set of features and processes that underpin the generation of high-quality data, based on their collective experience of developing and undertaking participatory activities with an environmental and conservation focus.

Conservation planning with insufficient information (open access) Recent advances in systematic conservation planning make use of modern portfolio theory (MPT)—a framework to construct and select optimal allocation of assets—to address the challenges posed by climate change uncertainty. However, these methods are difficult to implement for fine-scale conservation planning when information on future climate scenarios is insufficient. Here, Popov et al. identify three statistical methods that can overcome the lack of sufficient information and enable the use of MPT for fine-scale conservation planning. They illustrate the use of the three methods for identifying efficient portfolio allocation strategies using case studies of wetland conservation planning in North America and coastal conservation planning in Australia.

The Sea Lions on the Cover

This month’s cover image shows New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri) pups at a recently recolonised site. This endangered species was extirpated from mainland New Zealand, but is breeding there again after almost 200 years – a sign of hope. Identifying new suitable habitats helps manage recolonisation; however, these sea lions are returning to a modified landscape. Traditional species distribution models (SDMs) are of limited use to range-expanding species because they cannot model new habitats or human impacts outside their current range. SDM results are also complex and difficult for real-world conservation practitioners to use.

In their article, Frans et al. use the New Zealand sea lion to introduce the integrated SDM database (iSDMdb), an extended habitat suitability assessment for practical use. It is a spatial database of SDM-predicted sites that pairs predictions with expert knowledge to make informative data fields on predictions, uncertainty, human impacts, restoration features, novel preferences in novel spaces, and management priorities. The iSDMdb is user-friendly and includes an interactive map for non-GIS users and public access. At a critical time when there are many rangeexpanding or -shifting species affected by changing climatic and anthropogenic pressures, the iSDMdb fills an important gap in conservation applications and communication. Photo credit: ©Jim Fyfe