The existence or otherwise of density dependence within a population can have important implications for the management of that population. Here, we use estimates of abundance obtained from annual aerial counts on the major breeding grounds of a variety of North American duck species and use a state space model to separate the observation and ecological system processes. This state space approach allows us to impose a density dependence structure upon the true underlying population rather than on the estimates and we demonstrate the improved robustness of this procedure for detecting density dependence in the population. We adopt a Bayesian approach to model fitting, using Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods and use a reversible jump MCMC scheme to calculate posterior model probabilities which assign probabilities to the presence of density dependence within the population, for example. We show how these probabilities can be used either to discriminate between models or to provide model-averaged predictions which fully account for both parameter and model uncertainty.
Bayesian approach, Markov chain Monte Carlo, Model choice, Autoregressive, Logistic, State space modelling
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