Cost-Effective Large-Scale Occupancy-Abundance Monitoring of Invasive Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus Vulpecula) on New Zealand's Public Conservation Land
AuthorGormley, AM; Forsyth, DM; Wright, EF; Lyall, J; Elliott, M; Martini, M; Kappers, B; Perry, M; McKay, M
Source TitlePLoS One
PublisherPUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE
University of Melbourne Author/sForsyth, David
AffiliationSchool of BioSciences
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsGormley, A. M., Forsyth, D. M., Wright, E. F., Lyall, J., Elliott, M., Martini, M., Kappers, B., Perry, M. & McKay, M. (2015). Cost-Effective Large-Scale Occupancy-Abundance Monitoring of Invasive Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus Vulpecula) on New Zealand's Public Conservation Land. PLOS ONE, 10 (6), https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0127693.
Access StatusOpen Access
There is interest in large-scale and unbiased monitoring of biodiversity status and trend, but there are few published examples of such monitoring being implemented. The New Zealand Department of Conservation is implementing a monitoring program that involves sampling selected biota at the vertices of an 8-km grid superimposed over the 8.6 million hectares of public conservation land that it manages. The introduced brushtail possum (Trichosurus Vulpecula) is a major threat to some biota and is one taxon that they wish to monitor and report on. A pilot study revealed that the traditional method of monitoring possums using leg-hold traps set for two nights, termed the Trap Catch Index, was a constraint on the cost and logistical feasibility of the monitoring program. A phased implementation of the monitoring program was therefore conducted to collect data for evaluating the trade-off between possum occupancy-abundance estimates and the costs of sampling for one night rather than two nights. Reducing trapping effort from two nights to one night along four trap-lines reduced the estimated costs of monitoring by 5.8% due to savings in labour, food and allowances; it had a negligible effect on estimated national possum occupancy but resulted in slightly higher and less precise estimates of relative possum abundance. Monitoring possums for one night rather than two nights would provide an annual saving of NZ$72,400, with 271 fewer field days required for sampling. Possums occupied 60% (95% credible interval; 53-68) of sampling locations on New Zealand's public conservation land, with a mean relative abundance (Trap Catch Index) of 2.7% (2.0-3.5). Possum occupancy and abundance were higher in forest than in non-forest habitats. Our case study illustrates the need to evaluate relationships between sampling design, cost, and occupancy-abundance estimates when designing and implementing large-scale occupancy-abundance monitoring programs.
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