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Distance software: design and analysis of distance sampling surveys for estimating population size
Article first published online: 17 NOV 2009
© 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 British Ecological Society
Journal of Applied Ecology
Volume 47, Issue 1, pages 5–14, February 2010
How to Cite
Thomas, L., Buckland, S. T., Rexstad, E. A., Laake, J. L., Strindberg, S., Hedley, S. L., Bishop, J. R.B., Marques, T. A. and Burnham, K. P. (2010), Distance software: design and analysis of distance sampling surveys for estimating population size. Journal of Applied Ecology, 47: 5–14. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01737.x
- Issue published online: 29 JAN 2010
- Article first published online: 17 NOV 2009
- Received 29 July 2009; accepted 21 October 2009 Handling Editor: E.J. Milner-Gulland
- distance sampling;
- line transect sampling;
- point transect sampling;
- population abundance;
- population density;
- sighting surveys;
- survey design;
- wildlife surveys
1. Distance sampling is a widely used technique for estimating the size or density of biological populations. Many distance sampling designs and most analyses use the software Distance.
2. We briefly review distance sampling and its assumptions, outline the history, structure and capabilities of Distance, and provide hints on its use.
3. Good survey design is a crucial prerequisite for obtaining reliable results. Distance has a survey design engine, with a built-in geographic information system, that allows properties of different proposed designs to be examined via simulation, and survey plans to be generated.
4. A first step in analysis of distance sampling data is modelling the probability of detection. Distance contains three increasingly sophisticated analysis engines for this: conventional distance sampling, which models detection probability as a function of distance from the transect and assumes all objects at zero distance are detected; multiple-covariate distance sampling, which allows covariates in addition to distance; and mark–recapture distance sampling, which relaxes the assumption of certain detection at zero distance.
5. All three engines allow estimation of density or abundance, stratified if required, with associated measures of precision calculated either analytically or via the bootstrap.
6. Advanced analysis topics covered include the use of multipliers to allow analysis of indirect surveys (such as dung or nest surveys), the density surface modelling analysis engine for spatial and habitat modelling, and information about accessing the analysis engines directly from other software.
7.Synthesis and applications. Distance sampling is a key method for producing abundance and density estimates in challenging field conditions. The theory underlying the methods continues to expand to cope with realistic estimation situations. In step with theoretical developments, state-of-the-art software that implements these methods is described that makes the methods accessible to practising ecologists.