Abstract: Population declines may be inferred from a decrease in the number of sites at which a species is detected. Although such presence‐absence data often are interpreted informally, it is simple to test the statistical significance of changes in the number of sites occupied by a species. I used simulations to examine the statistical power (i.e., the probability of making the Type II error that no population decline has occurred when the population actually has declined) of presence‐absence designs. Most presence‐absence designs have low power to detect declines of <20–50% in populations but have adequate power to detect steeper declines. Power was greater if the population disappeared entirely from a subset of formerly occupied sites than if it declined evenly over its entire range. Power also rose with (1) increases in the number of sites surveyed; (2) increases in population density or sampling effort at a site; and (3) decreases in spatial variance in population density. Because of potential problems with bias and inadequate power, presence‐absence designs should be used and interpreted cautiously.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Oct 23, 1999
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