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Statistical power for detecting trends with applications to seabird monitoring

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Product Type: Journal Article

Year: 2003

Authors: Hatch, S. A.

Suggested Citation:
Hatch, S. A. 2003. Statistical power for detecting trends with applications to seabird monitoring. Biological Conservation 111(3):317-329.


Power analysis is helpful in defining goals for ecological monitoring and evaluating the performance of ongoing efforts. I examined detection standards proposed for population monitoring of seabirds using two programs (MONITOR and TRENDS) specially designed for power analysis of trend data. Neither program models within- and among-years components of variance explicitly and independently, thus an error term that incorporates both components is an essential input. Residual variation in seabird counts consisted of day-to-day variation within years and unexplained variation among years in approximately equal parts. The appropriate measure of error for power analysis is the standard error of estimation (SEest) from a regression of annual means against year. Replicate counts within years are helpful in minimizing SEest but should not be treated as independent samples for estimating power to detect trends. Other issues include a choice of assumptions about variance structure and selection of an exponential or linear model of population change. Seabird count data are characterized by strong correlations between SD and mean, thus a constant CV model is appropriate for power calculations. Time series were fit about equally well with exponential or linear models, but log transformation ensures equal variances over time, a basic assumption of regression analysis. Using sample data from seabird monitoring in Alaska, I computed the number of years required (with annual censusing) to detect trends of 1.4% per year (50% decline in 50 years) and 2.7% per year (50% decline in 25 years). At = 0.05 and a desired power of 0.9, estimated study intervals ranged from 11 to 69 years depending on species, trend, software, and study design. Power to detect a negative trend of 6.7% per year (50% decline in 10 years) is suggested as an alternative standard for seabird monitoring that achieves a reasonable match between statistical and biological significance. Available software proved unreliable for some kinds of power analyses.

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