Effects of model complexity and priors on estimation using sequential importance sampling/resampling for species conservation

Ecological Modelling
By:  and 

Links

Abstract

We examined the effects of complexity and priors on the accuracy of models used to estimate ecological and observational processes, and to make predictions regarding population size and structure. State-space models are useful for estimating complex, unobservable population processes and making predictions about future populations based on limited data. To better understand the utility of state space models in evaluating population dynamics, we used them in a Bayesian framework and compared the accuracy of models with differing complexity, with and without informative priors using sequential importance sampling/resampling (SISR). Count data were simulated for 25 years using known parameters and observation process for each model. We used kernel smoothing to reduce the effect of particle depletion, which is common when estimating both states and parameters with SISR. Models using informative priors estimated parameter values and population size with greater accuracy than their non-informative counterparts. While the estimates of population size and trend did not suffer greatly in models using non-informative priors, the algorithm was unable to accurately estimate demographic parameters. This model framework provides reasonable estimates of population size when little to no information is available; however, when information on some vital rates is available, SISR can be used to obtain more precise estimates of population size and process. Incorporating model complexity such as that required by structured populations with stage-specific vital rates affects precision and accuracy when estimating latent population variables and predicting population dynamics. These results are important to consider when designing monitoring programs and conservation efforts requiring management of specific population segments.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Effects of model complexity and priors on estimation using sequential importance sampling/resampling for species conservation
Series title Ecological Modelling
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2016.08.010
Volume 340
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 9 p.
First page 28
Last page 36