Regional avian species declines estimated from volunteer-collected long-term data using List Length Analysis

Judit Szabo, P A Vesk, P Baxter, Hugh Possingham

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Long-term systematic population monitoring data sets are rare but are essential in identifying changes in species abundance. In contrast, community groups and natural history organizations have collected many species lists. These represent a large, untapped source of information on changes in abundance but are generally considered of little value. The major problem with using species lists to detect population changes is that the amount of effort used to obtain the list is often uncontrolled and usually unknown. It has been suggested that using the number of species on the list, the "list length," can be a measure of effort. This paper significantly extends the utility of Franklin's approach using Bayesian logistic regression. We demonstrate the value of List Length Analysis to model changes in species prevalence (i.e., the proportion of lists on which the species occurs) using bird lists collected by a local bird club over 40 years around Brisbane, southeast Queensland, Australia. We estimate the magnitude and certainty of change for 269 bird species and calculate the probabilities that there have been declines and increases of given magnitudes. List Length Analysis confirmed suspected species declines and increases. This method is an important complement to systematically designed intensive monitoring schemes and provides a means of utilizing data that may otherwise be deemed useless. The results of List Length Analysis can be used for targeting species of conservation concern for listing purposes or for more intensive monitoring. While Bayesian methods are not essential for List Length Analysis, they can offer more flexibility in interrogating the data and are able to provide a range of parameters that are easy to interpret and can facilitate conservation listing and prioritization. � 2010 by the Ecological Society of America.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2157-2169
    Number of pages13
    JournalEcological Applications
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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