Data integration for inference about spatial processes: A model-based approach to test and account for data inconsistency

Simone Tenan*, Paolo Pedrini, Natalia Bragalanti, Claudio Groff, Chris Sutherland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Recently-developed methods that integrate multiple data sources arising from the same ecological processes have typically utilized structured data from well-defined sampling protocols (e.g., capture-recapture and telemetry). Despite this new methodological focus, the value of opportunistic data for improving inference about spatial ecological processes is unclear and, perhaps more importantly, no procedures are available to formally test whether parameter estimates are consistent across data sources and whether they are suitable for integration. Using data collected on the reintroduced brown bear population in the Italian Alps, a population of conservation importance, we combined data from three sources: traditional spatial capture-recapture data, telemetry data, and opportunistic data. We developed a fully integrated spatial capture-recapture (SCR) model that included a model-based test for data consistency to first compare model estimates using different combinations of data, and then, by acknowledging data-type differences, evaluate parameter consistency. We demonstrate that opportunistic data lend itself naturally to integration within the SCR framework and highlight the value of opportunistic data for improving inference about space use and population size. This is particularly relevant in studies of rare or elusive species, where the number of spatial encounters is usually small and where additional observations are of high value. In addition, our results highlight the importance of testing and accounting for inconsistencies in spatial information from structured and unstructured data so as to avoid the risk of spurious or averaged estimates of space use and consequently, of population size. Our work supports the use of a single modeling framework to combine spatially-referenced data while also accounting for parameter consistency.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0185588
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume12
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

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