The use of block counts, mark-resight and distance sampling to estimate population size of a mountain-dwelling ungulate

Corlatti, L., Fattorini, L. and Nelli, L. (2015) The use of block counts, mark-resight and distance sampling to estimate population size of a mountain-dwelling ungulate. Population Ecology, 57(2), pp. 409-419. (doi:10.1007/s10144-015-0481-6)

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Population size estimates represent indispensable tools for many research programs and for conservation or management issues. Mountain ungulates in open areas are often surveyed through ground counts that normally underestimate population size. While the use of sample counts is desirable, few studies have compared different probabilistic approaches to estimate population size in this taxon. We compared the size estimates of a male population of Alpine chamois using mark-resight and line transect sampling methods, while block counts were used to obtain the minimum number of males alive in the study area. Surveys were conducted within the Gran Paradiso National Park (Italy), in August–September 2013, using block counts along purposely selected trails and vantage points, mark-resight over 5 consecutive resightings from vantage points and trails, and line transect sampling along 12 transects repeated 8 times. Block counts yielded a minimum number of males alive in the population of n = 72 individuals. This value was greater than the upper bound of the 95 % confidence interval achieved using line transect sampling {n = 54, CV = 14 % [95 % CI (40, 71)]} while mark-resight yielded a more realistic result of n = 93 individuals {CV = 18 % [95 % CI (63, 137)]}. Our results suggest that line transect sampling performed poorly in the Alpine environment, leading to underestimates of population size, likely due to violations of some assumptions imposed by the rugged nature of the terrain. The mark-resight yielded lower precision, possibly due to the limited number of marked individuals and resighting occasions, but it provided robustness and accurate estimates as marks were evenly distributed among animals.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Nelli, Dr Luca
Authors: Corlatti, L., Fattorini, L., and Nelli, L.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Population Ecology
ISSN (Online):1438-390X
Published Online:13 February 2015

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