We compared the ability of simple random sampling (SRS) and a variety of systematic sampling (SYS) designs to estimate abundance, quantify spatial clustering, and predict spatial distribution of freshwater mussels. Sampling simulations were conducted using data obtained from a census of freshwater mussels in a 40 × 33 m section of the Cacapon River near Capon Bridge, West Virginia, and from a simulated spatially random population generated to have the same abundance as the real population. Sampling units that were 0.25 m2 gave more accurate and precise abundance estimates and generally better spatial predictions than 1-m2 sampling units. Systematic sampling with ≥2 random starts was more efficient than SRS. Estimates of abundance based on SYS were more accurate when the distance between sampling units across the stream was less than or equal to the distance between sampling units along the stream. Three measures for quantifying spatial clustering were examined: Hopkins Statistic, the Clumping Index, and Morisita's Index. Morisita's Index was the most reliable, and the Hopkins Statistic was prone to false rejection of complete spatial randomness. SYS designs with units spaced equally across and up stream provided the most accurate predictions when estimating the spatial distribution by kriging. Our research indicates that SYS designs with sampling units equally spaced both across and along the stream would be appropriate for sampling freshwater mussels even if no information about the true underlying spatial distribution of the population were available to guide the design choice.
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