Passive acoustic surveys for predicting species' distributions: optimising detection probability
journal contributionposted on 2018-07-18, 00:00 authored by Stiele V Hagens, Anthony RendallAnthony Rendall, Desley WhissonDesley Whisson
Surveying terrestrial species across diverse habitats is important for predicting species' distributions and implementing conservation actions. For vocalising species, passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) is increasing in popularity; however, survey design rarely considers the factors influencing the timing and occurrence of vocalisations and in turn, how they may influence detectability of the species. Here, we use the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) as a case study to show how PAM can be used to first examine the factors influencing vocalisations, and then use occupancy modelling to make recommendations on survey design for the species. We used automated recording units to monitor koala vocalisations at ten sites between August 2016 and January 2017. The timing of male koala vocalisations was linked to time of sunset with vocalisations increasing two hours prior to sunset and peaking at four hours after sunset. Vocalisations had a seasonal trend, increasing from the early to middle stage of the breeding season. Koala population density and stage of the breeding season had more influence on detection probability than daily sampling schedule. Where population density was low, and during the early stage of the breeding season, 7 survey nights (recording for 6 hours from 20:00h to 02:00h; i.e. the period of peak bellowing activity) were required to be 95% confident of a site-specific absence. Our study provides an approach for designing effective passive acoustic surveys for terrestrial species.