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

Sanders, Madeleine R., Clulow, Simon, Bower, Deborah S., Clulow, John, and Mahony, Michael J. (2015) Predator presence and vegetation density affect capture rates and detectability of Litoria aurea tadpoles: wide-ranging implications for a common survey technique. PLoS ONE, 10 (11). e0143733. pp. 1-9.

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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.

Item ID: 44579
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Keywords: tadpoles; mesocosms; predation; freshwater fish; animal behavior; ponds; verebrates; amphibians
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©2015 Sanders et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC Linkage grant LP0989459
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2016 01:33
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960807 Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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