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Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Matching observations and reality: Using simulation models to improve monitoring under uncertainty in the Serengeti
Authors: Nuno, Ana
Bunnefeld, Nils
Milner-Gulland, Eleanor J
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Keywords: bias
monitoring errors
observation model
savanna ungulates
survey methods
virtual ecologist
Issue Date: Apr-2013
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell for the British Ecological Society
Citation: Nuno A, Bunnefeld N & Milner-Gulland EJ (2013) Matching observations and reality: Using simulation models to improve monitoring under uncertainty in the Serengeti, Journal of Applied Ecology, 50 (2), pp. 488-498.
Abstract: 1. Planning for conservation success requires identifying effective and efficient monitoring strategies but multiple types of uncertainty affect the accuracy and precision of wildlife abundance estimates. Observation uncertainty, a consequence of sampling effort and design as well as the process of observation, is still understudied, with little attention given to the multiple potential sources of error involved. To establish error minimization priorities and maximize monitoring efficiency, the direction and magnitude of multiple sources of uncertainty must be considered. 2. Using monitoring of two contrasting ungulate species in the Serengeti ecosystem as a case study, we developed a ‘virtual ecologist' framework within which we carried out simulated tests of different monitoring strategies for different types of species. We investigated which components of monitoring should be prioritized to increase survey accuracy and precision and explored the robustness of population estimates under different budgetary scenarios. 3. The relative importance of each process affecting precision and accuracy varied according to the survey technique and biological characteristics of the species. While survey precision was mainly affected by population characteristics and sampling effort, the accuracy of the survey was greatly affected by observer effects, such as juvenile and herd detectability. 4. Synthesis and applications. Monitoring efficiency is of the utmost importance for conservation, especially in the context of limited budgets and other priorities. We provide insights into the likely effect of different types of observation and process error on population estimates for savanna ungulates, and more generally present a framework for evaluating monitoring programmes in a virtual environment. In highly aggregated species, the main focus should be on survey precision; sampling effort should be defined according to wildlife spatial distribution. For random or slightly aggregated species, accuracy is the key factor; this is most sensitive to observer effects which should be minimized by training and calibration by observer.
Type: Journal Article
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Rights: The publisher does not allow this work to be made publicly available in this Repository. Please use the Request a Copy feature at the foot of the Repository record to request a copy directly from the author. You can only request a copy if you wish to use this work for your own research or private study.
Affiliation: Imperial College London
Biological and Environmental Sciences
Imperial College London

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