Detecting long-term occupancy changes in Californian odonates from natural history and citizen science records

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Rapacciuolo, G., J. E. Ball-Damerow, A. R. Zeilinger, and V. H. Resh
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In a world of rapid environmental change, effective biodiversity conservation and management relies on our ability to detect changes in species occurrence. While long-term, standardized monitoring is ideal for detecting change, such monitoring is costly and rare. An alternative approach is to use historical records from natural history collections as a baseline to compare with recent observations. Here, we combine natural history collection data with citizen science observations within a hierarchical Bayesian occupancy modeling framework to identify changes in the occupancy of Californian dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) over the past century. We model changes in the probability of occupancy of 34 odonate species across years and as a function of climate, after correcting for likely variation in detection probability using proxies for recorder effort and seasonal variation. We then examine whether biological traits can help explain variation in temporal trends. Models built using only opportunistic records identify significant changes in occupancy across years for 14 species, with eight of those showing significant declines and six showing significant increases in occupancy in the period 1900–2013. These changes are consistent with estimates obtained using more standardized resurvey data, regardless of whether resurvey data are used individually or in conjunction with the opportunistic dataset. We find that species increasing in occupancy over time are also those whose occupancy tends to increase with higher minimum temperatures, which suggests that these species may be benefiting from increasing temperatures across California. Furthermore, these species are also mostly habitat generalists, whilst a number of habitat specialists display some of the largest declines in occupancy across years. Our approach enables more robust estimates of temporal trends from opportunistic specimen and observation data, thus facilitating the use of these data in biodiversity conservation and management.


Rapacciuolo, G., J. E. Ball-Damerow, A. R. Zeilinger, and V. H. Resh. 2017. “Detecting Long-Term Occupancy Changes in Californian Odonates from Natural History and Citizen Science Records.” Biodiversity and Conservation, July, 1–17. doi:10.1007/s10531-017-1399-4.