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Does perspective matter? A case study comparing Eulerian and Lagrangian estimates of common murre (Uria aalge) distributions

March 26, 2019

Studies estimating species' distributions require information about animal locations in space and time. Location data can be collected using surveys within a predetermined frame of reference (i.e., Eulerian sampling) or from animal‐borne tracking devices (i.e., Lagrangian sampling). Integration of observations obtained from Eulerian and Lagrangian perspectives can provide insights into animal movement and habitat use. However, contemporaneous data from both perspectives are rarely available, making examination of biases associated with each sampling approach difficult. We compared distributions of a mobile seabird observed concurrently from ship, aerial, and satellite tag surveys during May, June, and July 2012 in the northern California Current. We calculated utilization distributions to quantify and compare variability in common murre (Uria aalge) space use and examine how sampling perspective and platform influence observed patterns. Spatial distributions of murres were similar in May, regardless of sampling perspective. Greatest densities occurred in coastal waters off southern Washington and northern Oregon, near large murre colonies and the mouth of the Columbia River. Density distributions of murres estimated from ship and aerial surveys in June and July were similar to those observed in May, whereas distributions of satellite‐tagged murres in June and July indicated northward movement into British Columbia, Canada, resulting in different patterns observed from Eulerian and Lagrangian perspectives. These results suggest that the population of murres observed in the northern California Current during spring and summer includes relatively stationary individuals attending breeding colonies and nonstationary, vagile adults and subadults. Given the expected growth of telemetry studies and advances in survey technology (e.g., unmanned aerial systems), these results highlight the importance of considering methodological approaches, spatial extent, and synopticity of distribution data sets prior to integrating data from different sampling perspectives.

Publication Year 2019
Title Does perspective matter? A case study comparing Eulerian and Lagrangian estimates of common murre (Uria aalge) distributions
DOI 10.1002/ece3.5083
Authors Elizabeth M. Phillips, John K. Horne, Jeannette E. Zamon, Jonathan J. Felis, Josh Adams
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70203221
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center