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Simulations Inform Design Of Regional Occupancy-Based Monitoring For A Sparsely Distributed, Territorial Species

Author(s): Quresh Latif, Martha M. Ellis, Victoria A. Saab, Kim Mellen-McLean
Year Published: 2017

Sparsely distributed species attract conservation concern, but insufficient information on population trends challenges conservation and funding prioritization. Occupancy-based monitoring is attractive for these species, but appropriate sampling design and inference depend on particulars of the study system. We employed spatially explicit simulations to identify minimum levels of sampling effort for a regional occupancy monitoring study design, using white-headed woodpeckers (Picoides albolvartus), a sparsely distributed, territorial species threatened by habitat decline and degradation, as a case study. We compared the original design with commonly proposed alternatives with varying targets of inference (i.e., species range, space use, or abundance) and spatial extent of sampling. Sampling effort needed to achieve adequate power to observe a long-term population trend (≥80% chance to observe a 2% yearly decline over 20 years) with the previously used study design consisted of annually monitoring ≥120 transects using a single-survey approach or ≥90 transects surveyed twice per year using a repeat-survey approach. Designs that shifted inference toward finer-resolution trends in abundance and extended the spatial extent of sampling by shortening transects, employing a single-survey approach to monitoring, and incorporating a panel design (33% of units surveyed per year) improved power and reduced error in estimating abundance trends. In contrast, efforts to monitor coarse-scale trends in species range or space use with repeat surveys provided extremely limited statistical power. Synthesis and applications. Sampling resolutions that approximate home range size, spatially extensive sampling, and designs that target inference of abundance trends rather than range dynamics are probably best suited and most feasible for broad-scale occupancy-based monitoring of sparsely distributed territorial animal species.

Citation: Latif, Quresh S.; Ellis, Martha M.; Saab, Victoria A.; Mellen-McLean, Kim. 2017. Simulations inform design of regional occupancy-based monitoring for a sparsely distributed, territorial species. Ecology and Evolution. doi: 10.1002/ece3.3725.
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Wildlife, Effects Monitoring, Fire & Wildlife, Birds, Cavity-nesters
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 17463
Record updated: Apr 10, 2018