Overestimates of maternity and population growth rates in multi-annual breeders
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- Chapron, G., Wielgus, R. & Lambert, A. Eur J Wildl Res (2013) 59: 237. doi:10.1007/s10344-012-0671-x
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There has been limited attention to estimating maternity rate because it appears to be relatively simple. However, when used for multi-annual breeder species, such as the largest carnivores, the most common estimators introduce an upward bias by excluding unproductive females. Using a simulated dataset based on published data, we compare the accuracy of maternity estimates derived from standard methods against estimates derived from an alternative method. We show that standard methods overestimate maternity rates in the presence of unsuccessful pregnancies. Importantly, population growth rates derived from a matrix model parameterized with the biased estimates may indicate increasing populations although the populations are stable or even declining. We recommend the abandonment of the biased standard methods and to instead use the unbiased alternative method for population projections and assessments of population viability.