Predator presence and vegetation density affect capture rates and detectability of litoria aurea tadpoles: Wide-ranging implications for a common survey technique

Madeleine R. Sanders, Simon Clulow, Deborah S. Bower, John Clulow, Michael J. Mahony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Trapping is a common sampling technique used to estimate fundamental population metrics of animal species such as abundance, survival and distribution. However, capture success for any trapping method can be heavily influenced by individuals' behavioural plasticity, which in turn affects the accuracy of any population estimates derived from the data. Funnel trapping is one of the most common methods for sampling aquatic vertebrates, although, apart from fish studies, almost nothing is known about the effects of behavioural plasticity on trapping success. We used a full factorial experiment to investigate the effects that two common environmental parameters (predator presence and vegetation density) have on the trapping success of tadpoles. We estimated that the odds of tadpoles being captured in traps was 4.3 times higher when predators were absent compared to present and 2.1 times higher when vegetation density was high compared to low, using odds ratios based on fitted model means. The odds of tadpoles being detected in traps were also 2.9 times higher in predator-free environments. These results indicate that common environmental factors can trigger behavioural plasticity in tadpoles that biases trapping success. We issue a warning to researchers and surveyors that trapping biases may be commonplace when conducting surveys such as these, and urge caution in interpreting data without consideration of important environmental factors present in the study system. Left unconsidered, trapping biases in capture success have the potential to lead to incorrect interpretations of data sets, and misdirection of limited resources for managing species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0143733
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

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