Summary of bird survey information is a critical component of conservation activities, but often our summaries rely on statistical methods that do not accommodate the limitations of the information. Prioritization of species requires ranking and analysis of species by magnitude of population trend, but often magnitude of trend is a misleading measure of actual decline when trend is poorly estimated. Aggregation of population information among regions is also complicated by varying quality of estimates among regions. Hierarchical models provide a reasonable means of accommodating concerns about aggregation and ranking of quantities of varying precision. In these models the need to consider multiple scales is accommodated by placing distributional assumptions on collections of parameters. For collections of species trends, this allows probability statements to be made about the collections of species-specific parameters, rather than about the estimates. We define and illustrate hierarchical models for two commonly encountered situations in bird conservation: (1) Estimating attributes of collections of species estimates, including ranking of trends, estimating number of species with increasing populations, and assessing population stability with regard to predefined trend magnitudes; and (2) estimation of regional population change, aggregating information from bird surveys over strata. User-friendly computer software makes hierarchical models readily accessible to scientists.
Additional Publication Details
Hierarchical models and Bayesian analysis of bird survey information
U. S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station