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A comparative analysis of common methods to identify waterbird hotspots

May 11, 2019

1. Hotspot analysis is a commonly used method in ecology and conservation to identify areas of high biodiversity or conservation concern. However, delineating and mapping hotspots is subjective and various approaches can lead to different conclusions with regard to the classification of particular areas as hotspots, complicating long-term conservation planning and implementation efforts.

2. We present a comparative analysis of recent approaches for identifying waterbird hotspots, with the goal of developing insights about the appropriate use of these methods. We selected four commonly used measures to identify persistent areas of high use: kernel density estimation, Getis-Ord Gi*, hotspot persistence, and hotspots conditional on presence, which represent the range of quantitative hotspot estimation approaches used in waterbird analyses. We applied each of the methods to aerial survey waterbird count data collected in the Great Lakes from 2012-2014 using a 5 km2 grid. For each approach, we identified areas of high use for seven species/species groups and then compared the results across all methods.

3. Our results indicate that formal hotspot analysis frameworks do not always lead to the same conclusions. The kernel density and Getis-Ord Gi* methods yielded the most similar results across all species analyzed. We found that these two models can differ substantially from the hotspot persistence and hotspots conditional on presence estimation approaches, which were not consistently similar to one another. The hotspot persistence approach differed most significantly from the other methods but is the only method to explicitly account for temporal variation.

4. We recommend considering the ecological question and scale of any conservation or management activities prior to designing survey methodologies. Deciding the appropriate definition and scale for analysis is critical for interpretation of hotspot analysis results. Combining methods using an integrative approach, either within a single analysis or post-hoc, could lead to greater consistency in the identification of waterbird hotspots.

Publication Year 2019
Title A comparative analysis of common methods to identify waterbird hotspots
DOI 10.1111/2041-210X.13209
Authors Allison L. Sussman, Beth Gardner, Evan M. Adams, Leo Salas, Kevin P. Kenow, David R. Luukkonen, Michael J. Monfils, William P. Mueller, Kate A. Williams, Michelle Leduc-Lapierre, Elise F. Zipkin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Methods in Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70205447
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center