Species distribution models typically build a statistical understanding of the relationship between species occurrences and/or their biological responses and environmental drivers (e.g., temperature, depth, food supplies), requiring a multidisciplinary understanding that bridges statistics, biology and physical oceanography.
With a lower barrier to entry, these models are being used by increasing numbers of researchers. However, without robust guidance and benchmarking standards, the quality of studies generated by increased model use varies widely, reducing confidence and uptake by stakeholders. In 2018, at a meeting of practictioners from around the wrold, it was agreed that we would establish a platform to enable the development of next-generation marine distributional models that will drive policy and practice globally. Given the international effort to map the global seabed at high-resolution by 2030 (Nippon Foundation-GEBCO), the 2021 launch of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and an ever-increasing amount and quality of available observation and environmental data, it is important that best practice is established in order to maximize the scientific and societal impact of ocean models.