Integrating variability in detection probabilities when designing wildlife surveys: A case study of amphibians from south-eastern Australia

Stefano Canessa, Geoffrey W. Heard, Kirsten M. Parris, Michael A. McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Occupancy-based monitoring programs rely on survey data to infer presence or absence of the target species. However, species may occupy a site and go undetected, leading to erroneous inference of absence ('false absence'). If detectability is influenced by the time of year or weather conditions, survey protocols can be adjusted to minimize the chance of false absences. In this study, detection probabilities for three amphibian species from south-eastern Australia were modelled using a Bayesian approach. For aural surveys, we compared basic models, which only included effects of survey date, duration and time of day on detection, to models including additional effects of weather. Model selection using deviance information criterion (DIC) suggested that the basic model was the most parsimonious for Crinia signifera, while models including relative humidity and water temperature were most supported for Limnodynastes dumerilii and L. tasmaniensis respectively. When predictive performance was assessed by cross validation, DIC results were largely matched for C. signifera and L. dumerilii, while models of detection for L. tasmaniensis were indistinguishable, AUC scores suggesting inadequate performance. We show how results such as these can be used to design surveys, developing protocols for individual surveys and estimating the number of surveys required under those protocols to achieve a threshold cumulative probability of detection. Conservation managers can use these models to maximize the efficiency of surveys. This will improve the accuracy of occupancy data, and reduce the risk of misdirected conservation actions resulting from false absences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-744
Number of pages16
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2012

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