Estimating species-specific survival and movement when species identification is uncertain

Ecology. 2007 Feb;88(2):282-8. doi: 10.1890/0012-9658(2007)88[282:essamw];2.


Incorporating uncertainty in the investigation of ecological studies has been the topic of an increasing body of research. In particular, mark-recapture methodology has shown that incorporating uncertainty in the probability of detecting individuals in populations enables accurate estimation of population-level processes such as survival, reproduction, and dispersal. Recent advances in mark-recapture methodology have included estimating population-level processes for biologically important groups despite the misassignment of individuals to those groups. Examples include estimating rates of apparent survival despite less than perfect accuracy when identifying individuals to gender or breeding state. Here we introduce a method for estimating apparent survival and dispersal in species that co-occur but that are difficult to distinguish. We use data from co-occurring populations of meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) and montane voles (M. montanus) in addition to simulated data to show that ignoring species uncertainty can lead to biased estimates of population processes. The incorporation of species uncertainty in mark-recapture studies should aid future research investigating ecological concepts such as interspecific competition, niche differentiation, and spatial population dynamics in sibling species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arvicolinae*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Ecosystem
  • Models, Biological
  • Population Dynamics
  • Survival Rate
  • Uncertainty