Evaluating abundance and trends in a Hawaiian avian community using state-space analysis

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Summary Estimating population abundances and patterns of change over time are important in both ecology and conservation. Trend assessment typically entails fitting a regression to a time series of abundances to estimate population trajectory. However, changes in abundance estimates from year-to-year across time are due to both true variation in population size (process variation) and variation due to imperfect sampling and model fit. State-space models are a relatively new method that can be used to partition the error components and quantify trends based only on process variation. We compare a state-space modelling approach with a more traditional linear regression approach to assess trends in uncorrected raw counts and detection-corrected abundance estimates of forest birds at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, Hawai'i. Most species demonstrated similar trends using either method. In general, evidence for trends using state-space models was less strong than for linear regression, as measured by estimates of precision. However, while the state-space models may sacrifice precision, the expectation is that these estimates provide a better representation of the real world biological processes of interest because they are partitioning process variation (environmental and demographic variation) and observation variation (sampling and model variation). The state-space approach also provides annual estimates of abundance which can be used by managers to set conservation strategies, and can be linked to factors that vary by year, such as climate, to better understand processes that drive population trends.




Camp, R. J., Brinck, K. W., Gorresen, P. M., & Paxton, E. H. (2016). Evaluating abundance and trends in a Hawaiian avian community using state-space analysis. Bird Conservation International, 26(2), 225–242. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0959270915000088

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