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Long-term monitoring in transition: Resolving spatial mismatch and integrating multistate occupancy data

December 29, 2022

The success of long-term wildlife monitoring programs can be influenced by many factors and study designs often represent compromises between spatial scales and costs. Adaptive monitoring programs can iteratively manage this tension by adopting new cost-efficient technologies, which can provide projects the opportunity to reallocate costs to address new hypotheses, adapt to changing ecological conditions, or adjust sampling scale or resolution. If there is interest in longer time series of monitoring data, methodological transitions may necessitate integrated models to link newer data with historical data. However, data integration can be difficult if spatial or temporal scales are mismatched. Here, we develop an integrated multistate site-occupancy model and resolve sample unit spatial mismatch to link datasets from two northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) monitoring schemes that broadly overlapped during a methodological transition. The first dataset was obtained from a decades-long spotted owl monitoring program using call-playback and mark-resight surveys on historical territories of varying size and shape. This monitoring program has recently transitioned to passive acoustic monitoring of randomly selected 5-km2 hexagons over larger spatial extents. Both monitoring datasets overlapped with areas in which barred owl (Strix varia), an invasive competitor that has played an important role in northern spotted owl declines, were being removed experimentally. Reconciling spatial mismatch substantially increased the representation of the call-playback dataset and integrating the two datasets increased precision of spotted owl use and paired occupancy estimates relative to single dataset estimates. Estimates of spotted owl pair occupancy across the study area were lower than previous territory-based estimates based on call-playback surveys. Our integrated model further showed that a concurrent barred owl removal experiment increased landscape use and site occupancy by pairs of spotted owls. Our empirical application of an integrated modelling approach demonstrates a useful analytical framework for long-term monitoring efforts undergoing methodological transitions (e.g. mark-recapture to non-invasive population monitoring). This framework allows monitoring programs to maintain continuity of monitoring objectives across methodological transitions, rigorously incorporate previous findings, and adaptively respond to changing ecological conditions.

Publication Year 2023
Title Long-term monitoring in transition: Resolving spatial mismatch and integrating multistate occupancy data
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolind.2022.109815
Authors Matthew J Weldy, Damon B. Lesmeister, Charles Yackulic, Cara L. Appel, Chris E. McCafferty, David Wiens
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Indicators
Index ID 70239211
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center