A comparison of survey method efficiencies for estimating densities of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)

Jake Ferguson, Laura Jiménez, Aislyn A. Keyes, Austen Hilding, Michael A McCartney, Katherine St. Clair, Douglas H Johnson, John R. Fieberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abundance surveys are commonly used to estimate plant or animal densities and frequently require estimating detection probabilities to account for imperfect detection. The estimation of detection probabilities requires additional measurements that take time, potentially reducing the efficiency of the survey when applied to high-density populations. We conducted quadrat, removal, and distance surveys of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) in three central Minnesota lakes and determined how much survey effort would be required to achieve a pre-specified level of precision for each abundance estimator, allowing us to directly compare survey design efficiencies across a range of conditions. We found that the required sampling effort needed to achieve our precision goal depended on both the survey design and population density. At low densities, survey designs that could cover large areas but with lower detection probabilities, such as distance surveys, were more efficient (i.e., required less sampling effort to achieve the same level of precision). However, at high densities, quadrat surveys, which tend to cover less area but with high detection rates, were more efficient. These results demonstrate that the best survey design is likely to be context-specific, requiring some prior knowledge of the underlying population density and the cost/time needed to collect additional information for estimating detection probabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere15528
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center with funding from the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. JF received partial support from the Minnesota Agricultural Experimental Station and the McKnight Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright 2023 Ferguson et al.


  • Abundance estimation
  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Detection probability
  • Distance-removal survey
  • Quadrat survey
  • Removal survey
  • Underwater visual survey

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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