Predicting and correcting bias caused by measurement error in line transect sampling using multiplicative error models

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43 Citations (Scopus)


Line transect sampling is one of the most widely used methods for animal abundance assessment. Standard estimation methods assume certain detection on the transect, no animal movement, and no measurement errors. Failure of the assumptions can cause substantial bias. In this work, the effect of error measurement on line transect estimators is investigated. Based on considerations of the process generating the errors, a multiplicative error model is presented and a simple way of correcting estimates based on knowledge of the error distribution is proposed. Using beta models for the error distribution, the effect of errors and of the proposed correction is assessed by simulation. Adequate confidence intervals for the corrected estimates are obtained using a bootstrap variance estimate for the correction and the delta method. As noted by Chen (1998, Biometrics 54, 899-908), even unbiased estimators of the distances might lead to biased density estimators, depending on the actual error distribution. In contrast with the findings of Chen, who used an additive model, unbiased estimation of distances, given a multiplicative model, lead to overestimation of density. Some error distributions result in observed distance distributions that make efficient estimation impossible, by removing the shoulder present in the original detection function. This indicates the need to improve field methods to reduce measurement error. An application of the new methods to a real data set is presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)757-763
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004


  • beta distribution
  • distance sampling
  • line transect sampling
  • measurement error
  • multiplicative models


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