Accounting for spatial dependence improves relative abundance estimates in a benthic marine species structured as a metapopulation

Joaquin Cavieres*, Cole C. Monnahan, Aki Vehtari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Sea urchin (Loxechinus albus) is one of the most important benthic resource in Chile. Due to their large-scale spatial metapopulation structure, sea urchin subpopulations are interconnected by larval dispersion, so the recovery of local abundance depends on the distance and hydrodynamic characteristics of their spatial domain. Currently, this resource is evaluated with classical stock assessment models, using standardized catch per unit effort (an index of relative abundance) as a key piece of information to determine catch quotas and achieve sustainability. However, these estimates assume hyperstability for the total population, ignoring spatial dependence among fishing sites, which is a fundamental concept for populations structured as metapopulation. We develop a Bayesian catch standardization model with explicit spatial dependence to better address the structure of this population. The proposed model performs statistically better compared to a model without spatial dependence, based on leave-one-out cross-validation, and predictive distributions also show that parameter estimation is consistent with the data. We argue that incorporating spatial structure improves the estimated relative abundance index in a population structured as a metapopulation. Our improved index of abundance will lead to better assessments and management advice, thus improving the sustainability of the stock.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105960
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Bayesian inference
  • Catch per unit effort (CPUE)
  • Metapopulation
  • Probabilistic modelling
  • Spatial model


Dive into the research topics of 'Accounting for spatial dependence improves relative abundance estimates in a benthic marine species structured as a metapopulation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this