Use of surrogate data in demographic population viability analysis: A case study of California sea lions

Claudia J. Hernández-Camacho, Victoria J. Bakker, David Aurioles-Gamboa, Jeff Laake, Leah Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Reliable data necessary to parameterize population models are seldom available for imperiled species. As an alternative, data from populations of the same species or from ecologically similar species have been used to construct models. In this study, we evaluated the use of demographic data collected at one California sea lion colony (Los Islotes) to predict the population dynamics of the same species from two other colonies (San Jorge and Granito) in the Gulf of California, Mexico, for which demographic data are lacking. To do so, we developed a stochastic demographic age-structured matrix model and conducted a population viability analysis for each colony. For the Los Islotes colony we used site-specific pup, juvenile, and adult survival probabilities, as well as birth rates for older females. For the other colonies, we used site-specific pup and juvenile survival probabilities, but used surrogate data from Los Islotes for adult survival probabilities and birth rates. We assessed these models by comparing simulated retrospective population trajectories to observed population trends based on count data. The projected population trajectories approximated the observed trends when surrogate data were used for one colony but failed to match for a second colony. Our results indicate that species-specific and even region-specific surrogate data may lead to erroneous conservation decisions. These results highlight the importance of using population-specific demographic data in assessing extinction risk. When vital rates are not available and immediate management actions must be taken, in particular for imperiled species, we recommend the use of surrogate data only when the populations appear to have similar population trends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0139158
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 28 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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