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Spatial replication and habitat context matters for assessments of tropical biodiversity using acoustic indices

Mitchell,, Simon L., Bicknell, Jake E., Edwards, David P., Deere, Nicolas J., Bernard, Henry, Davies, Zoe G., Struebig, Matthew J. (2020) Spatial replication and habitat context matters for assessments of tropical biodiversity using acoustic indices. Ecological Indicators, 119 . Article Number 106717. ISSN 1470-160X. (doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2020.106717) (KAR id:84410)

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Approaches to characterise and monitor biodiversity based on the sound signals of ecosystems have become popular in landscape ecology and biodiversity conservation. However, to date, validation studies of how well acoustic indices reflect observed biodiversity patterns have often relied on low levels of either spatial or temporal replication, while focussing on habitats with similar underlying anthropological and geophysical sound characteristics. For acoustic indices to be broadly applicable to biodiversity monitoring, their capacity to

measure the ecological facets of soundscapes must be robust to these potential sources of bias. Using two contrasting recording approaches, we examined the efficacy of four commonly used acoustic indices to reflect patterns of observed bird species richness across a tropical forest degradation gradient in Northeast Borneo. The gradient comprised intact and logged forests, riparian forests, remnants, and oil palm plantations, thus providing a highly variable anthrophonic and geophonic soundscape. We compared the degree to which acoustic indices derived from automated versus point count recording methods detected variation in inter-habitat species richness, as well as their capacity to capture changes in species diversity as a consequence of forest degradation quantified by high-resolution LiDAR derived forest canopy heights. We found Acoustic Diversity Index was associated with forest canopy height as measured by both automated recorders and recordings from point counts, whereas the association between canopy height and Acoustic Complexity Index was only detected using point count recordings. For both types of recordings, Acoustic Complexity Index exhibited the strongest relationship with observed bird richness in old growth and logged forest, whereas Acoustic Diversity was not linked, suggesting avian richness does not drive its association with canopy height. No acoustic indices were associated with observed bird richness in oil palm riparian areas. Our findings underscore the potential utility of soundscape

approaches to characterise biodiversity patterns in degraded tropical landscapes, and may be used as a proxy for human inventories of bird communities. However, we also show that for acoustic indices to be effective on landscape-wide studies of environmental gradients, adequate spatial replication is required, and care must be taken to control for non-target elements of soundscapes in different habitats.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2020.106717
Uncontrolled keywords: Bioacoustics; Soundscape ; Acoustic index; Biodiversity ; Birds; Spatial replication; LiDAR
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Signature Themes: Food Systems, Natural Resources and Environment
Funders: Natural Environment Research Council (
Depositing User: Simon Mitchell
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2020 13:25 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 19:33 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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