Research interests

  • Species distribution models
  • GIS and remote sensing
  • Macroecology
  • Bat ecology
  • Biodiversity conservation

Scientific projects

Predictive species distribution models associate environmental variables with georeferenced species records by means of multivariate statistical algorithms to infer habitat suitability maps. They can be of great value to decision-makers in biodiversity conservation planning, invasive species management, climate change mitigation policies, macroecological research and field survey design geared towards the detection of unknown populations. For large taxonomic groups however, very few such models have been created so far, that also make fine-grained predictions for entire biogeographic provinces. The main reason is probably that occurrence data for the vast majority of species are sparse, not easily accessible, and in dire need of (improved) georeferencing and/or taxonomic scrutiny - and such data compliation and cleaning is very time consuming.

Together with Jakob Fahr I assembled such a large dataset (all African bat species) within the framework of the BIOTA Africa project. We then created the first high-resolution (1 km^2 ) map of bat diversity and endemism for entire Africa. While emerging diversity gradients were generally plausible, we were also surprised how strongly predicted richness levels changed over short distances (with distance to water bodies apparently playing a major role). Continuing a collaboration with the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation at the University of Twente, I next contrasted this new species richness model with the one obtained when stacking IUCN expert maps, and found that differences were large enough to alter macroecological conclusions considerably. This result shows how strongly the Wallacean shortfall still affects common species distribution and diversity estimates, and that studies requiring an estimate of the complete geographic range of species should not be based on IUCN expert maps (alone).

Ongoing projects comprise an investigation of correlative environmental drivers of African bat species diversity at various spatial scales, and an analysis aimed at detecting refuge areas where species' habitat conditions are likely to remain suitable despite accelerating climate change.

I am passionate about exploring the full potential of earth observation data to advance biodiversity science and conservation policies, and I have a strong interest in improving methods that model and monitor (all kinds of) species distributions and ecosystems at adequate levels of scale and complexity.


Herkt KMB, Skidmore AK, Fahr J (2017) Macroecological conclusions based on IUCN expert maps: a call for caution. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 26 (8), 930–941. DOI:  10.1111/geb.12601.

Herkt KMB, Barnikel G, Skidmore AK, Fahr J (2016) A high-resolution model of bat diversity and endemism for continental Africa. Ecological Modelling, 320, 9–28.DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2015.09.009.

Conference contributions

Herkt KMB, Barnikel G, Wegmann M, Kalko EKV, Fahr J (2010) Modelling continental species richness of African bats at high resolution. Talk presented at the 15th International Bat Research Conference, 23.-27. August 2010, Prague, Czech Republic

Herkt KMB, Barnikel G, Kalko EKV, Fahr J (2009) AfriBats - A New Knowledge Platform for Biodiversity Research on African Chiroptera. Poster presented at the Joint Meeting of Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) & Society for Tropical Ecology (gtö) on 27-30 July 2009, Marburg, Germany

Herkt KMB, Barnikel G, Fahr J, Finckh M, García Marquez JR, König K, Oldeland J, Penner J, Rödel M-O, Schmidt M, Sommer JH, Wegmann M (2008) Opportunities, challenges and limitations of species distribution models: Implications for decision-making in support of biodiversity conservation and sustainable land use. Talk presented at the BIOTA AFRICA Congress 2008, Spier, South Africa

Herkt KMB, Toxopeus AG (2007) Modelling Habitat Suitability to Predict the Potential Geographic Distribution of Podarcis erhardii on Crete, Greece. Poster presented at the 6th European Conference on Ecological Modelling, Trieste, Italy



  • Dipl. Geogr. Matthias Herkt M.Sc.
  • Institute of Evolutionary Ecology
  • and Conservation Genomics
  • University of Ulm
  • Albert Einstein Allee 11
  • D 89069 Ulm, Germany
  • Tel. +49 (0)731 50 22664
  • Fax +49 (0)731 50 22683