Spatially explicit approaches are widely recommended for ecosystem management. The quality of the data, such as presence/absence or habitat maps, affects the management actions recommended and is, therefore, key to management success. However, available data are often biased and incomplete. Previous studies have advanced ways to resolve data bias and missing data, but questions remain about how we design ecological surveys to develop a dataset through field surveys. Ecological surveys may have multiple spatial scales, including the spatial extent of the target ecosystem (observation window), the resolution for mapping individual distributions (mapping unit), and the survey area within each mapping unit (sampling unit). We developed an ecological survey method for mapping individual distributions by applying spatially explicit stochastic models. We used spatial point processes to describe individual spatial placements using either random or clustering processes. We then designed ecological surveys with different spatial scales and individual detectability. We found that the choice of mapping unit affected the presence mapped fraction, and the fraction of the total individuals covered by the presence mapped patches. Tradeoffs were found between these quantities and the map resolution, associated with equivalent asymptotic behaviors for both metrics at sufficiently small and large mapping unit scales. Our approach enabled consideration of the effect of multiple spatial scales in surveys, and estimation of the survey outcomes such as the presence mapped fraction and the number of individuals situated in the presence detected units. The developed theory may facilitate management decision-making and inform the design of monitoring and data gathering.
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