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Ecology, Mammals -- Behavior


Integrated community models—an emerging framework in which multiple data sources for multiple species are analyzed simultaneously—offer opportunities to expand inferences beyond the single-species and single-data-source approaches common in ecology. We developed a novel integrated community model that combines distance sampling and single-visit count data; within the model, information is shared among data sources (via a joint likelihood) and species (via a random-effects structure) to estimate abundance patterns across a community. Parameters relating to abundance are shared between data sources, and the model can specify either shared or separate observation processes for each data source. Simulations demonstrated that the model provided unbiased estimates of abundance and detection parameters even when detection probabilities varied between the data types. The integrated community model also provided more accurate and more precise parameter estimates than alternative single-species and single-data-source models in many instances. We applied the model to a community of 11 herbivore species in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, and found considerable interspecific variation in response to local wildlife management practices: Five species showed higher abundances in a region with passive conservation enforcement (median across species: 4.5× higher), three species showed higher abundances in a region with active conservation enforcement (median: 3.9× higher), and the remaining three species showed no abundance differences between the two regions. Furthermore, the community average of abundance was slightly higher in the region with active conservation enforcement but not definitively so (posterior mean: higher by 0.20 animals; 95% credible interval: 1.43 fewer animals, 1.86 more animals). Our integrated community modeling framework has the potential to expand the scope of inference over space, time, and levels of biological organization, but practitioners should carefully evaluate whether model assumptions are met in their systems and whether data integration is valuable for their applications.


Copyright (c) 2024 The Authors Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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