1. After decades of extensive surveying, knowledge of the global distribution of species still remains inadequate for many purposes. In the short to medium term, such knowledge is unlikely to improve greatly given the often prohibitive costs of surveying and the typically limited resources available.
  2. By forecasting biodiversity patterns in time and space, predictive models can help fill critical knowledge gaps and prioritize research to support better conservation and management.
  3. The ability of a model to predict biodiversity metrics in novel environments is termed ‘transferability’, and models with high transferability will be the most useful in this context.
  4. Despite their potential broad utility, little guidance exists on what confers high transferability to biodiversity models.
  5. We synthesise recent advances in biodiversity model transfers to facilitate increased understanding of what underpins successful model transferability, demonstrating that a consistent approach has so far been lacking but is essential for achieving high levels of repeatability, transparency, and accountability of model transfers.
  6. We provide a set of guidelines to support efficient learning and the improvement of model transferability.
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