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Sensitivity analysis of North American bird population estimates

Thogmartin, W.E., 2010, Sensitivity analysis of North American bird population estimates.: Ecological Modelling, v. 221, i. 2, p.173-177.


The Partners in Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan provided estimates of population sizes for 448 landbird species using a multiplicative model. Input parameters in this calculation included the area of state×Bird Conservation Region polygons, area-specific mean Breeding Bird Survey counts circa 1995, and adjustment factors for the distance over which species may presumably be correctly counted, the assumed pairing of singing males with non-singing females, and variability in the propensity of birds to sing over the course of the survey day. I assessed the sensitivity of this population calculation to changes in the input parameters. I assessed both local and global sensitivity of the model to changes in the parameters with Monte Carlo one-at-a-time simulations and the Fourier amplitude sensitivity test (FAST). Monte Carlo simulations were an estimate of local model sensitivity whereas FAST estimated global model sensitivity, accommodating the potential shared variance between model parameters. Monte Carlo simulations suggested population estimates were 39% more sensitive to changes in the detection distance adjustment than to the other parameters; the other parameters were nearly equal in their contribution to model sensitivity. Conversely, FAST analysis determined that each of the input variables aside from the pair adjustment provided roughly equal contributions to variability in population estimates. The most efficient means for improving continental population estimates for birds surveyed by the Breeding Bird Survey will be through increased scrutiny of the species-specific distance detection and time-of-day adjustments and improved understanding in the spatial and temporal variability in the mean Breeding Bird Survey count.


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