A multispecies dependent double-observer model: A new method for estimating multispecies abundance

Jessie D. Golding, J. Joshua Nowak, Victoria J. Dreitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Conservation of biological communities requires accurate estimates of abundance for multiple species. Recent advances in estimating abundance of multiple species, such as Bayesian multispecies N-mixture models, account for multiple sources of variation, including detection error. However, false-positive errors (misidentification or double counts), which are prevalent in multispecies data sets, remain largely unaddressed. The dependent-double observer (DDO) method is an emerging method that both accounts for detection error and is suggested to reduce the occurrence of false positives because it relies on two observers working collaboratively to identify individuals. To date, the DDO method has not been combined with advantages of multispecies N-mixture models. Here, we derive an extension of a multispecies N-mixture model using the DDO survey method to create a multispecies dependent double-observer abundance model (MDAM). The MDAM uses a hierarchical framework to account for biological and observational processes in a statistically consistent framework while using the accurate observation data from the DDO survey method. We demonstrate that the MDAM accurately estimates abundance of multiple species with simulated and real multispecies data sets. Simulations showed that the model provides both precise and accurate abundance estimates, with average credible interval coverage across 100 repeated simulations of 94.5% for abundance estimates and 92.5% for detection estimates. In addition, 92.2% of abundance estimates had a mean absolute percent error between 0% and 20%, with a mean of 7.7%. We present the MDAM as an important step forward in expanding the applicability of the DDO method to a multispecies setting. Previous implementation of the DDO method suggests the MDAM can be applied to a broad array of biological communities. We suggest that researchers interested in assessing biological communities consider the MDAM as a tool for deriving accurate, multispecies abundance estimates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3425-3435
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Bayesian N-mixture model
  • abundance model
  • dependent double-observer
  • false positive
  • multiple species


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