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J Acoust Soc Am. 2013 Sep;134(3):2469-76. doi: 10.1121/1.4816569.

The effects of acoustic misclassification on cetacean species abundance estimation.

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Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, St Andrews University, St Andrews KY16 8LB, United Kingdom.


To estimate the density or abundance of a cetacean species using acoustic detection data, it is necessary to correctly identify the species that are detected. Developing an automated species classifier with 100% correct classification rate for any species is likely to stay out of reach. It is therefore necessary to consider the effect of misidentified detections on the number of observed data and consequently on abundance or density estimation, and develop methods to cope with these misidentifications. If misclassification rates are known, it is possible to estimate the true numbers of detected calls without bias. However, misclassification and uncertainties in the level of misclassification increase the variance of the estimates. If the true numbers of calls from different species are similar, then a small amount of misclassification between species and a small amount of uncertainty around the classification probabilities does not have an overly detrimental effect on the overall variance. However, if there is a difference in the encounter rate between species calls and/or a large amount of uncertainty in misclassification rates, then the variance of the estimates becomes very large and this dramatically increases the variance of the final abundance estimate.

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