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Estimation de la moyenne et de la variance de l’abondance de populations en écologie à partir d’échantillons de petite taille

Abstract : In ecology as well as in other scientific areas, count samples often comprise many zeros, and few high abundances. Their distribution is particularly overdispersed, and skewed. The most classical methods of inference are often ill-adapted to these distributions, unless sample size is really large. It is thus necessary to question the validity of inference methods, and to quantify estimation errors for such data. This work has been motivated by a fish abundance dataset, corresponding to punctual sampling by electrofishing. This dataset comprises more than 2000 samples : each sample corresponds to punctual abundances (considered to be independent and identically distributed) for one species and one fishing campaign. These samples are small-sized (generally, 20 _ n _ 50) and comprise many zeros (overall, 80% of counts are zeros). The fits of various classical distribution models were compared on these samples, and the negative binomial distribution was selected. Consequently, we dealt with the estimation of the parameters of this distribution : the parameter of mean m and parameter of dispersion q. First, we studied estimation problems for the dispersion. The estimation error is higher when few individuals are observed, and the gain in precision for a population, resulting from the exclusion of samples comprising very few individuals, can be quantified. We then compared several methods of interval estimation for the mean. Confidence intervals based on negative binomial likelihood are, by far, preferable to more classical ones such as Student’s method. Besides, both studies showed that some estimation problems are predictable through simple statistics such as total number of individuals or number of non-null counts. Accordingly, we compared the fixed sample size sampling method, to a sequential method, where sampling goes on until a minimum number of individuals or positive counts have been observed. We showed that sequential sampling improves the estimation of dispersion but causes the estimation of mean to be biased ; still, it improves the estimation of confidence intervals for the mean. Hence, this work quantifies errors in the estimation of mean and dispersion in the case of overdispersed count data, compares various estimation methods, and leads to practical recommendations as for sampling and estimation methods.
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Lise Vaudor. Estimation de la moyenne et de la variance de l’abondance de populations en écologie à partir d’échantillons de petite taille. Sciences agricoles. Université Claude Bernard - Lyon I, 2011. Français. ⟨NNT : 2011LYO10013⟩. ⟨tel-00842873⟩

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