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Teasing out biological effects and sampling artifacts when using occupancy rate in monitoring programs

, : Teasing out biological effects and sampling artifacts when using occupancy rate in monitoring programs. Journal of Field Ornithology 79(2): 159-169

Recent declines in biodiversity stress the need for rigorous and reliable multispecies monitoring programs. A potential weakness of monitoring programs is a reliance on raw counts and the assumption either of complete detection or of constant detection probability for each species, regardless of the sampling situation. Until recently, these assumptions have largely remained untested and, therefore, to help insure accuracy, bird-monitoring programs have depended on standardization of counts and counts of longer duration. We tested the effectiveness of these strategies for providing unbiased occupancy rates using a method designed to accommodate situations where species detection probabilities are less than one and heterogeneous. We tested the effect of potential sources of heterogeneity in detection probability (vegetation structure, wind velocity, cloud cover, date, and time) on occupancy rate estimates of 13 bird species in southern France. We compared adjusted and raw occupancy rates for two sampling durations (10 and 20 min). Differences between raw and adjusted occupancy rates were low even for the shorter count duration, suggesting that standardized long counts should produce reliable estimates of occupancy rates even in the absence of correction by an appropriate method. This enhances the value of past monitoring programs where long standardized counts were used, but with designs that do not allow corrected estimates. However, we found that detection probability was heterogeneous for most species and that vegetation structure was an important source of heterogeneity. The possible effects of habitat on detection probability should be of special concern for long-term monitoring programs conducted in landscapes where habitats vary across time or space.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1557-9263.2008.00158.x

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