Ecology. 2022 Dec 1:e3934. doi: 10.1002/ecy.3934. Online ahead of print.
Open-population spatial capture-recapture (OPSCR) models use the spatial information contained in individual detections collected over multiple consecutive occasions to estimate occasion-specific density, but also demographic parameters. OPSCR models can also estimate spatial variation in vital rates, but such models are neither widely used nor thoroughly tested. We developed a Bayesian OSPCR model that not only accounts for spatial variation in survival using spatial covariates, but also estimates local density-dependent effects on survival within a unified framework. Using simulations, we show that OPSCR models provide sound inferences on the effect of spatial covariates on survival, including multiple competing sources of mortality, each with potentially different spatial determinants. Estimation of local density-dependent survival was possible but required more data due to the greater complexity of the model. Not accounting for spatial heterogeneity in survival led to up to 10% positive bias in abundance estimates. We provide an empirical demonstration of the model by estimating the effect of country and density on cause-specific mortality of female wolverines (Gulo gulo) in central Sweden and Norway. The ability to make population-level inferences of spatial variation in survival is an essential step towards a fully spatially-explicit OPSCR model that can disentangle the role of multiple spatial drivers on population dynamics. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.