Detecting changes in abundance of endangered species: understanding the accuracy, precision, and costs

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Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences






NRC Research Press

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Using empirical field data for bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), we evaluated the trade-off between power and sampling effort–cost using Monte Carlo simulations of commonly collected mark–recapture–resight and count data, and we estimated the power to detect changes in abundance across different time intervals. We also evaluated the effects of monitoring different components of a population and stratification methods on the precision of each method. Our results illustrate substantial variability in the relative precision, cost, and information gained from each approach. While grouping estimates by age or stage class substantially increased the precision of estimates, spatial stratification of sampling units resulted in limited increases in precision. Although mark–resight methods allowed for estimates of abundance versus indices of abundance, our results suggest snorkel surveys may be a more affordable monitoring approach across large spatial scales. Detecting a 25% decline in abundance after 5 years was not possible, regardless of technique (power = 0.80), without high sampling effort (48% of study site). Detecting a 25% decline was possible after 15 years, but still required high sampling efforts. Our results suggest detecting moderate changes in abundance of freshwater salmonids requires considerable resource and temporal commitments and highlight the difficulties of using abundance measures for monitoring bull trout populations.

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