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Using mark-recapture distance sampling methods on line transect surveys

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Mark-recapture distance sampling (MRDS) methods are widely used for density and abundance estimation when the conventional DS assumption of certain detection at distance zero fails, as they allow detection at distance zero to be estimated and incorporated into the overall probability of detection to better estimate density and abundance. However, incorporating MR data in DS models raises survey and analysis issues not present in conventional DS. Conversely, incorporating DS assumptions in MR models raises issues not present in conventional MR. As a result, being familiar with either conventional DS methods or conventional MR methods does not on its own put practitioners in good a position to apply MRDS methods appropriately. This study explains the sometimes subtly different varieties of MRDS survey methods and the associated concepts underlying MRDS models. This is done as far as possible without giving mathematical details - in the hope that this will make the key concepts underlying the methods accessible to a wider audience than if we were to present the concepts via equations. We illustrate use of the two main types of MRDS model by using data collected on two different types of survey: a survey of ungulate faecal pellets where two observers searched independently of each other; and a cetacean survey that used a search protocol that could accommodate responsive movement, with only one observer searching independently and the other being aware of all detections. Synthesis and applications. Mark-recapture DS is a widely used method for estimating animal density and abundance when detection of animals at distance zero is not certain. Two observer configurations and three statistical models are described, and it is important to choose the most appropriate model for the observer configuration and target species in question. By way of making the methods more accessible to practicing ecologists, we describe the key ideas underlying MRDS methods, the sometimes subtle differences between them, and we illustrate these by applying different kinds of MRDS method to surveys of two different target species using different survey configurations.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1180-1191
Number of pages12
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014

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