The temporal symmetry approach of R. Pradel can be used with capture-recapture data to produce retrospective estimates of a population's growth rate, lambda(i), and the relative contributions to lambda(i) from different components of the population. Direct estimation of lambda(i) provides an alternative to using population projection matrices to estimate asymptotic lambda and is seeing increased use. However, the robustness of direct estimates of lambda(1) to violations of several key assumptions has not yet been investigated. Here, we consider tag loss as a possible source of bias for scenarios in which the rate of tag loss is (1) the same for all marked animals in the population and (2) a function of tag age. We computed analytic approximations of the expected values for each of the parameter estimators involved in direct estimation and used those values to calculate bias and precision for each parameter estimator. Estimates of lambda(i) were robust to homogeneous rates of tag loss. When tag loss rates varied by tag age, bias occurred for some of the sampling situations evaluated, especially those with low capture probability, a high rate of tag loss, or both. For situations with low rates of tag loss and high capture probability, bias was low and often negligible. Estimates of contributions of demographic components to lambda(i) were not robust to tag loss. Tag loss reduced the precision of all estimates because tag loss results in fewer marked animals remaining available for estimation. Clearly tag loss should be prevented if possible, and should be considered in analyses of lambda(i), but tag loss does not necessarily preclude unbiased estimation of lambda(i).
Additional publication details
Effects of tag loss on direct estimates of population growth rate