For the vast majority of cases, it is highly unlikely that all the individuals of a population will be encountered during a study. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a constant fraction of the population is encountered over times, locations, or species to be compared. Hence, simple counts usually will not be good indices of population size. We recommend that detection probabilities (the probability of including an individual in a count) be estimated and incorporated into inference procedures. However, most techniques for estimating detection probability require moderate sample sizes, which may not be achievable when studying rare species. In order to improve the reliability of inferences from studies of rare species, we suggest two general approaches that researchers may wish to consider that incorporate the concept of imperfect detectability: (1) borrowing information about detectability or the other quantities of interest from other times, places, or species; and (2) using state variables other than abundance (e.g., species richness and occupancy). We illustrate these suggestions with examples and discuss the relative benefits and drawbacks of each approach.
Additional publication details
Improving inferences in population studies of rare species that are detected imperfectly