spAbundance: An R package for single-species and multi-species spatially-explicit abundance models


Numerous modeling techniques exist to estimate abundance of plant and wildlife species. These methods seek to estimate abundance while accounting for multiple complexities found in ecological data, such as observational biases, spatial autocorrelation, and species correlations. There is, however, a lack of user-friendly and computationally efficient software to implement the various models, particularly for large data sets. We developed the spAbundance R package for fitting spatially-explicit Bayesian single-species and multi-species hierarchical distance sampling models, N-mixture models, and generalized linear mixed models. The models within the package can account for spatial autocorrelation using Nearest Neighbor Gaussian Processes and accommodate species correlations in multi-species models using a latent factor approach, which enables model fitting for data sets with large numbers of sites and/or species. We provide three vignettes and three case studies that highlight spAbundance functionality. We used spatially-explicit multi-species distance sampling models to estimate density of 16 bird species in Florida, USA, an N-mixture model to estimate Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens) abundance in New Hampshire, USA, and a spatial linear mixed model to estimate forest aboveground biomass across the continental USA. spAbundance provides a user-friendly, formula-based interface to fit a variety of univariate and multivariate spatially-explicit abundance models. The package serves as a useful tool for ecologists and conservation practitioners to generate improved inference and predictions on the spatial drivers of populations and communities.