Skip to main content

Indexing butterfly abundance whilst accounting for missing counts and variability in seasonal pattern

Dennis, Emily B., Freeman, Stephen N., Brereton, Tom, Roy, David B. (2013) Indexing butterfly abundance whilst accounting for missing counts and variability in seasonal pattern. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 4 (7). pp. 637-645. (doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12053) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

PDF - Author's Accepted Manuscript
Restricted to Repository staff only
Contact us about this Publication Download (384kB)
Official URL


1. Volunteer-based ‘citizen science’ schemes now play a valuable role in deriving biodiversity indicators, both aiding the development of conservation policies and measuring the success of management. We provide a new method for analysing such data based on counts of invertebrate species characterised by highly variable numbers within a season combined with a substantial proportion of proposed survey visits not made. 2. Using the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) for illustration, we propose a two-stage model that makesmore efficient use of the data than previous analyses, whilst accounting for missing values. Firstly, generalised additive models were applied separately to data from each year to estimate the annual seasonal flight patterns. The estimated daily values were then normalised to estimate a seasonal pattern that is the same across sites but differs between years. A model was then fitted to the full set of annual counts, with seasonal values as an offset, to estimate annual changes in abundance accounting for the varying seasonality. 3. The method was tested and compared against the current approach and a simple linear interpolation using simulated data, parameterised with values estimated from UKBMS data for three example species. The simulation study demonstrated accurate estimation of linear time trends and improved power for detecting trends compared with the current model. 4. Comparison of indices for species covered by the UKBMS under the various model approaches showed similar predicted trends over time, but confidence intervals were generally narrower for the two-stage model. 5. In addition to creating more robust trend estimates, the new method allows all volunteer records to contribute to the indices and thus incorporates data from more populations within the geographical range of a species. On average, the current model only enables data from 60% of 10 km2 grid squares with monitored sites to be included, whereas the two-stage model uses all available data and hence provides full coverage at least of the monitored area. As many invertebrate species exhibit similar patterns of emergence or voltinism, our two-stage method could be applied to other taxa.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/2041-210X.12053
Uncontrolled keywords: butterfly monitoring, citizen science, count data, generalised additive models, missing data
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics (inc Computing science) > QA276 Mathematical statistics
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH541 Ecology
Divisions: Faculties > Sciences > School of Mathematics Statistics and Actuarial Science > Statistics
Depositing User: E. Dennis
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2016 10:16 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 18:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year