Inferring species interactions through joint mark–recapture analysis

By: , and 



Introduced species are frequently implicated in declines of native species. In many cases, however, evidence linking introduced species to native declines is weak. Failure to make strong inferences regarding the role of introduced species can hamper attempts to predict population viability and delay effective management responses. For many species, mark–recapture analysis is the more rigorous form of demographic analysis. However, to our knowledge, there are no mark–recapture models that allow for joint modeling of interacting species. Here, we introduce a two‐species mark–recapture population model in which the vital rates (and capture probabilities) of one species are allowed to vary in response to the abundance of the other species. We use a simulation study to explore bias and choose an approach to model selection. We then use the model to investigate species interactions between endangered humpback chub (Gila cypha) and introduced rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Colorado River between 2009 and 2016. In particular, we test hypotheses about how two environmental factors (turbidity and temperature), intraspecific density dependence, and rainbow trout abundance are related to survival, growth, and capture of juvenile humpback chub. We also project the long‐term effects of different rainbow trout abundances on adult humpback chub abundances. Our simulation study suggests this approach has minimal bias under potentially challenging circumstances (i.e., low capture probabilities) that characterized our application and that model selection using indicator variables could reliably identify the true generating model even when process error was high. When the model was applied to rainbow trout and humpback chub, we identified negative relationships between rainbow trout abundance and the survival, growth, and capture probability of juvenile humpback chub. Effects on interspecific interactions on survival and capture probability were strongly supported, whereas support for the growth effect was weaker. Environmental factors were also identified to be important and in many cases stronger than interspecific interactions, and there was still substantial unexplained variation in growth and survival rates. The general approach presented here for combining mark–recapture data for two species is applicable in many other systems and could be modified to model abundance of the invader via other modeling approaches.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Inferring species interactions through joint mark–recapture analysis
Series title Ecology
DOI 10.1002/ecy.2166
Volume 99
Issue 4
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 812
Last page 821