Modelling the probability of capture for New Zealand's longfin eels ('Anguilla dieffenbachii') and shortfin eels ('Anguilla australis')
Longfin eel and shortfin eel probability of capture models can be used to build probability of capture maps. These maps can help identify eel encounter hotspots in New Zealand and are useful for managing and conserving the species. This research models longfin eel and shortfin eel presence/absence data using regularized random forest (RRF) models, vectorautoregressive spatial-temporal (VAST) models and Bayesian Gaussian random field (GRaF) models. Probability of capture maps built under VAST and GRaF remain approximately consistent with the maps built under RRF models. That is, longfin eels have high probabilities of capture around the coast of New Zealand’s North Island and have low probabilities of capture throughout the centre of New Zealand’s South Island. Shortfin eels have high probabilities of capture in small isolated regions of New Zealand’s North Island and have very low probabilities of capture throughout most of New Zealand’s South Island. Cross validation and spatial cross validation was used to compare the models. Cross validation results show that, compared to RRF models, VAST models improve predictive accuracy for the longfin eel and shortfin eel. Whereas, GRaF only improves predictive performance for the longfin eel. However, spatial cross validation shows no significant difference between VAST and RRF models. Hence, VAST models have higher predictive accuracy than RRF models for the longfin eel and shortfin eel when the training set is spatially correlated to the test set.