A multistate dynamic site occupancy model for spatially aggregated sessile communities

Methods in Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



  1. Estimation of transition probabilities of sessile communities seems easy in principle but may still be difficult in practice because resampling error (i.e. a failure to resample exactly the same location at fixed points) may cause significant estimation bias. Previous studies have developed novel analytical methods to correct for this estimation bias. However, they did not consider the local structure of community composition induced by the aggregated distribution of organisms that is typically observed in sessile assemblages and is very likely to affect observations.
  2. We developed a multistate dynamic site occupancy model to estimate transition probabilities that accounts for resampling errors associated with local community structure. The model applies a nonparametric multivariate kernel smoothing methodology to the latent occupancy component to estimate the local state composition near each observation point, which is assumed to determine the probability distribution of data conditional on the occurrence of resampling error.
  3. By using computer simulations, we confirmed that an observation process that depends on local community structure may bias inferences about transition probabilities. By applying the proposed model to a real data set of intertidal sessile communities, we also showed that estimates of transition probabilities and of the properties of community dynamics may differ considerably when spatial dependence is taken into account.
  4. Results suggest the importance of accounting for resampling error and local community structure for developing management plans that are based on Markovian models. Our approach provides a solution to this problem that is applicable to broad sessile communities. It can even accommodate an anisotropic spatial correlation of species composition, and may also serve as a basis for inferring complex nonlinear ecological dynamics.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A multistate dynamic site occupancy model for spatially aggregated sessile communities
Series title Methods in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1111/2041-210X.12690
Volume 8
Issue 6
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher British Ecological Society
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 11 p.
First page 757
Last page 767