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Monitoring surveys provide fundamental information for use in environmental decision making by permitting assessment of both current population (or community) status and change in status, by providing a historical context of the present status, and by documenting response to ongoing management. Conservation of species and communities has historically been based upon monitoring information, and prioritization of species and habitats for conservation action often requires reliable, quantitative results. Although many monitoring programs exist for populations, species, and communities, as well as for biotic and abiotic features of the environment, estimation of population and community change from surveys can sometimes be controversial, and demands on monitoring information have increased greatly in recent years. Information is often required at multiple spatial scales for use in geographic information systems, and information needs exist for description of regional patterns of change in populations, communities, and ecosystems. Often, attempts are made to meet these needs using information collected for other purposes or at inappropriate geographic scales, leading to information that is difficult to analyze and interpret. In this chapter, we address some of the constraints and issues associated with estimating change in wildlife species and species groups from monitoring surveys, and use bird surveys as our primary examples.
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Estimation of change in populations and communities from monitoring survey data