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Tracking trends in monarch abundances over the 20th century is currently impossible using museum records: a response to Boyle et al. (2019)

By Leslie Ries, Elise F Zipkin, Rob P. Guralnick

Posted 20 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/581801

The onslaught of opportunistic data offers new opportunities to examine biodiversity patterns at large scales. However, the techniques for tracking abundance trends with such data are new and require careful consideration to ensure that variations in sampling effort do not lead to biased estimates. The analysis by Boyle et al. (2019) showing a mid-century increase in monarch abundance followed by a decrease starting in the 1960s used an inappropriate correction with respect to three dimensions of sampling effort: taxonomy, place, and time. When the data presentenced by Boyle et al. (2019) are corrected to account for biases in the collection process, the results of their analyses do not hold. The paucity of data that remain after accounting for spatial and temporal biases suggests that analyses of monarch trends back to the beginning of the 20th are currently not possible. Continued digitization of museum records is needed to provide a firm data basis to estimate population trends.

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