Dynamic occupancy models for explicit colonization processes

Ecology. 2016 Jan;97(1):194-204. doi: 10.1890/15-0416.1.


The dynamic, multi-season occupancy model framework has become a popular tool for modeling open populations with occupancies that change over time through local colonizations and extinctions. However, few versions of the model relate these probabilities to the occupancies of neighboring sites or patches. We present a modeling framework that incorporates this information and is capable of describing a wide variety of spatiotemporal colonization and extinction processes. A key feature of the model is that it is based on a simple set of small-scale rules describing how the process evolves. The result is a dynamic process that can account for complicated large-scale features. In our model, a site is more likely to be colonized if more of its neighbors were previously occupied and if it provides more appealing environmental characteristics than its neighboring sites. Additionally, a site without occupied neighbors may also become colonized through the inclusion of a long-distance dispersal process. Although similar model specifications have been developed for epidemiological applications, ours formally accounts for detectability using the well-known occupancy modeling framework. After demonstrating the viability and potential of this new form of dynamic occupancy model in a simulation study, we use it to obtain inference for the ongoing Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) invasion in South Africa. Our results suggest that the Common Myna continues to enlarge its distribution and its spread via short distance movement, rather than long-distance dispersal. Overall, this new modeling framework provides a powerful tool for managers examining the drivers of colonization including short- vs. long-distance dispersal, habitat quality, and distance from source populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Distribution
  • Animals
  • Ecosystem*
  • Introduced Species*
  • Models, Biological*
  • South Africa
  • Starlings / physiology*