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Title: A low-cost, yet simple and highly repeatable system for acoustically surveying cryptic species
Contributor(s): Lambert, Kathryn  (author); McDonald, Paul  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2014
DOI: 10.1111/aec.12143
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Abstract: Accurate determination of the population density of key focal species is necessary for monitoring the success of management programs and ecosystem health across a wide range of contexts. Unfortunately, many key taxa are visually cryptic and thus difficult to count using traditional observation-based techniques. Bell miners ('Manorina melanophrys'), are just such a species. They are widespread throughout south-eastern Australia, yet they are critical to monitor given their association and potential causal link to spreading vegetative dieback in this region. A new passive acoustic monitoring technique was trialled by testing its ability to determine population densities of bell miner colonies via counting the distinctive 'tink' vocalization of this species. This call was given at a constant rate per individual, and at a common amplitude across 10 colonies throughout the entire geographic range of the species. Theoretical sound transmission and playback trials through typical habitat determined that any bird within a 50-m radius of the recorders used would be louder than 70 dB, enabling this threshold amplitude to be used to determine the number of birds in a 50 m radius of the recorder. Field trials of the acoustic protocol versus human observers using traditional visual surveys found that passive acoustic monitoring was able to detect more individuals, using a less expensive protocol that drastically reduced the need for observer training or expertise. Sound therefore offers a reliable method for determining the density of this vocal, but visually cryptic species. We present methods for calibrating recording devices and detecting calls louder than species-specific thresholds using readily available freeware, enabling our methods to be easily adapted to census a variety of acoustically distinctive species, offering a more effective, yet lower cost and in our case more efficient census technique for surveying difficult species.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Austral Ecology, 39(7), p. 779-785
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Asia
Place of Publication: Australia
ISSN: 1442-9993
Field of Research (FOR): 060807 Animal Structure and Function
060801 Animal Behaviour
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Environmental and Rural Science

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