Ecology and Evolution
John Wiley & Sons Ltd
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Long‐distance migration is a common phenomenon across the animal kingdom but the scale of annual migratory movements has made it difficult for researchers to estimate survival rates during these periods of the annual cycle. Estimating migration survival is particularly challenging for small‐bodied species that cannot carry satellite tags, a group that includes the vast majority of migratory species. When capture–recapture data are available for linked breeding and non‐breeding populations, estimation of overall migration survival is possible but current methods do not allow separate estimation of spring and autumn survival rates. Recent development of a Bayesian integrated survival model has provided a method to separately estimate the latent spring and autumn survival rates using capture–recapture data, though the accuracy and precision of these estimates has not been formally tested. Here, I used simulated data to explore the estimability of migration survival rates using this model. Under a variety of biologically realistic scenarios, I demonstrate that spring and autumn migration survival can be estimated from the integrated survival model, though estimates are biased toward the overall migration survival probability. The direction and magnitude of this bias are influenced by the relative difference in spring and autumn survival rates as well as the degree of annual variation in these rates. The inclusion of covariates can improve the model’s performance, especially when annual variation in migration survival rates is low. Migration survival rates can be estimated from relatively short time series (4–5 years), but bias and precision of estimates are improved when longer time series (10–12 years) are available. The ability to estimate seasonal survival rates of small, migratory organisms opens the door to advancing our understanding of the ecology and conservation of these species. Application of this method will enable researchers to better understand when mortality occurs across the annual cycle and how the migratory periods contribute to population dynamics. Integrating summer and winter capture data requires knowledge of the migratory connectivity of sampled populations and therefore efforts to simultaneously collect both survival and tracking data should be a high priority, especially for species of conservation concern.
Rushing CS. Estimability of migration survival rates from integrated breeding and winter capture– recapture data. Ecol Evol. 2019;9:849–858. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4826