Experts correctly describe demography associated with historical decline of the endangered Indiana bat, but not recent period of stationarity

PeerJ
By: , and 

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Abstract

Demographic characteristics of bats are often insufficiently described for modeling populations. In data poor situations, experts are often relied upon for characterizing ecological systems. In concert with the development of a matrix model describing Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) demography, we elicited estimates for parameterizing this model from 12 experts. We conducted this elicitation in two stages, requesting expert values for 12 demographic rates. These rates were adult and juvenile seasonal (winter, summer, fall) survival rates, pup survival in fall, and propensity and success at breeding. Experts were most in agreement about adult fall survival (3% Coefficient of Variation) and least in agreement about propensity of juveniles to breed (37% CV). The experts showed greater concordance for adult ( mean CV, adult = 6.2%) than for juvenile parameters ( mean CV, juvenile = 16.4%), and slightly more agreement for survival (mean CV, survival = 9.8%) compared to reproductive rates ( mean CV, reproduction = 15.1%). However, survival and reproduction were negatively and positively biased, respectively, relative to a stationary dynamic. Despite the species exhibiting near stationary dynamics for two decades prior to the onset of a potential extinction-causing agent, white-nose syndrome, expert estimates indicated a population decline of -11% per year (95% CI = -2%, -20%); quasi-extinction was predicted within a century ( mean = 61 years to QE, range = 32, 97) by 10 of the 12 experts. Were we to use these expert estimates in our modeling efforts, we would have errantly trained our models to a rapidly declining demography asymptomatic of recent demographic behavior. While experts are sometimes the only source of information, a clear understanding of the temporal and spatial context of the information being elicited is necessary to guard against wayward predictions.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Experts correctly describe demography associated with historical decline of the endangered Indiana bat, but not recent period of stationarity
Series title PeerJ
DOI 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2790v1
Volume 5
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher PeerJ
Contributing office(s) Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Description e2790v1