Estimating abundances of interacting species using morphological traits, foraging guilds, and habitat

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We developed a statistical model to estimate the abundances of potentially interacting species encountered while conducting point-count surveys at a set of ecologically relevant locations - as in a metacommunity of species. In the model we assume that abundances of species with similar traits (e.g., body size) are potentially correlated and that these correlations, when present, may exist among all species or only among functionally related species (such as members of the same foraging guild). We also assume that species-specific abundances vary among locations owing to systematic and stochastic sources of heterogeneity. For example, if abundances differ among locations due to differences in habitat, then measures of habitat may be included in the model as covariates. Naturally, the quantitative effects of these covariates are assumed to differ among species. Our model also accounts for the effects of detectability on the observed counts of each species. This aspect of the model is especially important for rare or uncommon species that may be difficult to detect in community-level surveys. Estimating the detectability of each species requires sampling locations to be surveyed repeatedly using different observers or different visits of a single observer. As an illustration, we fitted models to species-specific counts of birds obtained while sampling an avian community during the breeding season. In the analysis we examined whether species abundances appeared to be correlated due to similarities in morphological measures (body mass, beak length, tarsus length, wing length, tail length) and whether these correlations existed among all species or only among species of the same foraging guild. We also used the model to estimate the effects of forested area on species abundances and the effects of sound power output (as measured by body size) on species detection probabilities.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Estimating abundances of interacting species using morphological traits, foraging guilds, and habitat
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0094323
Volume 9
Issue 4
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Public Library of Science
Publisher location San Francisco, CA
Contributing office(s) Southeast Ecological Science Center
Description 9 p.
First page 1
Last page 9
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N