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The power of monitoring: optimizing survey designs to detect occupancy changes in a rare amphibian population

Barata, Izabela M., Griffiths, Richard A., Ridout, Martin S. (2017) The power of monitoring: optimizing survey designs to detect occupancy changes in a rare amphibian population. Scientific Reports, 7 . pp. 1-9. ISSN 2045-2322. (doi:10.1038/s41598-017-16534-8)


Biodiversity conservation requires reliable species assessments and rigorously designed surveys. However, determining the survey effort required to reliably detect population change can be challenging for rare, cryptic and elusive species. We used a tropical bromeliad-dwelling frog as a model system to explore a cost-effective sampling design that optimizes the chances of detecting a population decline. Relatively few sampling visits were needed to estimate occupancy and detectability with good precision, and to detect a 30% change in occupancy with 80% power. Detectability was influenced by observer expertise, which therefore also had an effect on the sampling design – less experienced observers require more sampling visits to detect the species. Even when the sampling design provides precise parameter estimates, only moderate to large changes in occupancy will be detected with reliable power. Detecting a population change of 15% or less requires a large number of sites to be surveyed, which might be unachievable for range-restricted species occurring at relatively few sites. Unless there is high initial occupancy, rare and cryptic species will be particularly challenging when it comes to detecting small population changes. This may be a particular issue for long-term monitoring of amphibians which often display low detectability and wide natural fluctuations.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/s41598-017-16534-8
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Depositing User: Richard Griffiths
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2018 16:37 UTC
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2019 08:18 UTC
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