Experimental Evaluation of Koala Scat Persistence and Detectability with Implications for Pellet-Based Fauna Census

Cristescu, Romane H., Goethals, Klara, Banks, Peter B., Carrick, Frank N. and Frere, Celine (2012) Experimental Evaluation of Koala Scat Persistence and Detectability with Implications for Pellet-Based Fauna Census. International Journal of Zoology, 2012 Article Number631856: . doi:10.1155/2012/631856


Author Cristescu, Romane H.
Goethals, Klara
Banks, Peter B.
Carrick, Frank N.
Frere, Celine
Title Experimental Evaluation of Koala Scat Persistence and Detectability with Implications for Pellet-Based Fauna Census
Journal name International Journal of Zoology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1687-8477
1687-8485
Publication date 2012-08-14
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1155/2012/631856
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 2012
Issue Article Number631856
Total pages 12
Place of publication New York, NY United States
Publisher Hindawi Publishing Corporation
Language eng
Subject 1103 Animal Science and Zoology
Abstract Establishing species distribution and population trends are basic requirements in conservation biology, yet acquiring this fundamental information is often difficult. Indirect survey methods that rely on fecal pellets (scats) can overcome some difficulties but present their own challenges. In particular, variation in scat detectability and decay rate can introduce biases. We studied how vegetation communities affect the detectability and decay rate of scats as exemplified by koalas Phascolarctos cinereus: scat detectability was highly and consistently dependent on ground layer complexity (introducing up to 16 non-detection bias); scat decay rates were highly heterogeneous within vegetation communities; exposure of scats to surface water and rain strongly accelerated scat decay rate and finally, invertebrates were found to accelerate scat decay rate markedly, but unpredictably. This last phenomenon may explain the high variability of scat decay rate within a single vegetation community. Methods to decrease biases should be evaluated when planning scat surveys, as the most appropriate method(s) will vary depending on species, scale of survey and landscape characteristics. Detectability and decay biases are both stronger in certain vegetation communities, thus their combined effect is likely to introduce substantial errors in scat surveys and this could result in inappropriate and counterproductive management decisions.
Formatted abstract
Establishing species distribution and population trends are basic requirements in conservation biology, yet acquiring this fundamental information is often difficult. Indirect survey methods that rely on fecal pellets (scats) can overcome some difficulties but present their own challenges. In particular, variation in scat detectability and decay rate can introduce biases. We studied how vegetation communities affect the detectability and decay rate of scats as exemplified by koalas Phascolarctos cinereus: scat detectability was highly and consistently dependent on ground layer complexity (introducing up to 16 non-detection bias); scat decay rates were highly heterogeneous within vegetation communities; exposure of scats to surface water and rain strongly accelerated scat decay rate and finally, invertebrates were found to accelerate scat decay rate markedly, but unpredictably. This last phenomenon may explain the high variability of scat decay rate within a single vegetation community. Methods to decrease biases should be evaluated when planning scat surveys, as the most appropriate method(s) will vary depending on species, scale of survey and landscape characteristics. Detectability and decay biases are both stronger in certain vegetation communities, thus their combined effect is likely to introduce substantial errors in scat surveys and this could result in inappropriate and counterproductive management decisions
Keyword Conservation Biology
Survey methods
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation Publications
School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Official 2013 Collection
 
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Created: Sat, 23 Mar 2013, 01:34:04 EST by Frank Carrick on behalf of Centre For Mined Land Rehabilitation