Bayesian joint models with INLA exploring marine mobile predator-prey and competitor species habitat overlap

Dinara Sadykova, Beth E Scott* (Corresponding Author), Michela De Dominicis, Sarah L. Wakelin, Alexander Sadykov, Judith Wolf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Understanding spatial physical habitat selection driven by competition and/or predator–prey interactions of mobile marine species is a fundamental goal of spatial ecology. However, spatial counts or density data for highly mobile animals often (1) include excess zeros, (2) have spatial correlation, and (3) have highly nonlinear relationships with physical habitat variables, which results in the need for complex joint spatial models. In this paper, we test the use of Bayesian hierarchical hurdle and zero-inflated joint models with integrated nested Laplace approximation (INLA), to fit complex joint models to spatial patterns of eight mobile marine species (grey seal, harbor seal, harbor porpoise, common guillemot, black-legged kittiwake, northern gannet, herring, and sandeels). For each joint model, we specified nonlinear smoothed effect of physical habitat covariates and selected either competing species or predator–prey interactions. Out of a range of six ecologically important physical and biologic variables that are predicted to change with climate change and large-scale energy extraction, we identified the most important habitat variables for each species and present the relationships between these bio/physical variables and species distributions. In particular, we found that net primary production played a significant role in determining habitat preferences of all the selected mobile marine species. We have shown that the INLA method is well-suited for modeling spatially correlated data with excessive zeros and is an efficient approach to fit complex joint spatial models with nonlinear effects of covariates. Our approach has demonstrated its ability to define joint habitat selection for both competing and prey–predator species that can be relevant to numerous issues in the management and conservation of mobile marine species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5212-5226
Number of pages15
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number14
Early online date7 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

EPSRC grant Ecowatt 2050 EP/K012851/1

We would like to thank the associate editor and the anonymous reviewers for their useful and constructive suggestions which led to a considerable improvement of the manuscript. The authors would also like to thank the following people/organizations for making large datasets available for use in this paper: Mark Lewis (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), Philip Hammond (Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St. Andrews), Susan Lusseau (Marine Scotland Science), Darren Stevens (The Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, PML), and Yuri Artioli (Plymouth Marine Laboratory). This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EcoWatt250; EPSRC EP/K012851/1).


  • Besag models
  • bio-physical habitats
  • hurdle models
  • integrated nested Laplace approximation
  • mobile marine species
  • spatial joint modeling
  • spatial niche selection
  • stochastic partial differential equations
  • zero-inflated models


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