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Measurement error and estimates of population extinction risk

Journal article
Authors J. M. McNamara
Karin C. Harding
Published in Ecology Letters
Volume 7
Issue 1
Pages 16-20
ISSN 1461-023X
Publication year 2004
Published at Botanical Institute
Pages 16-20
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1461-0248.2003...
Keywords negative autocorrelation, population extinction risk, time series, AGE-STRUCTURED POPULATIONS, EUROPEAN HARBOR SEALS, ENVIRONMENTAL, STOCHASTICITY, DECLINING POPULATIONS, VARIABLE ENVIRONMENTS, DYNAMICS, GROWTH, RATES
Subject categories Ecology

Abstract

It is common to estimate the extinction probability for a vulnerable population using methods that are based on the mean and variance of the long-term population growth rate. The numerical values of these two parameters are estimated from time series of population censuses. However, the proportion of a population that is registered at each census is typically not constant but will vary among years because of stochastic factors such as weather conditions at the time of sampling. Here, we analyse how such sampling errors influence estimates of extinction risk and find sampling errors to produce two opposite effects. Measurement errors lead to an exaggerated overall variance, but also introduce negative autocorrelations in the time series (which means that estimates of annual growth rates tend to alternate in size). If time series data are treated properly these two effects exactly counter balance. We advocate routinely incorporating a measure of among year correlations in estimating population extinction risk.

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