Document Type


Date of Original Version



Natural Resources Science


Evaluating the efficacy of monitoring designs is crucial for the successful monitoring and conservation of populations. For tidal marsh bird species of conservation concern, detecting population declines at local spatial scales within actionable time frames is a top priority. We examined and compared the effectiveness of alternative monitoring strategies for detecting local-scale population declines using count data from 1176 spatially-independent salt marsh sampling points throughout the northeastern United States (Maine to Virginia). We used abundance estimates that accounted for imperfect detection as initial conditions to simulate annual population declines of 5%, 10%, 30%, and 50% over a 5-year sampling period. Under an optimal monitoring design with biennial sampling, we were able to successfully detect annual population declines of ≥30% for each species and for all species combined. However, this required a minimum of 15–20 points per site being sampled. Power to detect declines, although low for detecting smaller annual declines (i.e., <10%), improved substantially when points were visited twice per season, yet a third visit provided a reduced benefit. When testing factors that could potentially influence power to detect declines, we found that the power within sites was positively related to species abundance. Power was similar between biennial sampling (3 of 5 years) and annual sampling (5 of 5 years), suggesting a more cost-effective approach would be to sample every other year. We found that within most sites, detecting annual declines of 10% or less over a relatively short 5-year duration would be difficult. Hence, we recommend that salt marsh bird monitoring programs in the northeastern United States conduct two visits to each site per sampling year, include 15 or more sampling points per site (without confounding spatial independence), and conduct monitoring efforts every other year. This approach will maximize the efficacy of site-level monitoring of tidal marsh birds, which can aid in assessments of coastal wetland conservation and related habitat management efforts.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Global Ecology and Conservation



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.