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To see or not to see: investigating detectability of Ganges River dolphins using a combined visual-acoustic survey. / Richman, N.; Gibbons, J.M.; Turvey, S.T.; Akamatsu, T.; Ahmed, Benazir; Mahabub, E.; Smith, B.D.; Jones, Julia P.G.

In: PLoS ONE, Vol. 9, No. 5, 07.05.2014, p. e96811.

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Richman, N. ; Gibbons, J.M. ; Turvey, S.T. ; Akamatsu, T. ; Ahmed, Benazir ; Mahabub, E. ; Smith, B.D. ; Jones, Julia P.G. / To see or not to see: investigating detectability of Ganges River dolphins using a combined visual-acoustic survey. In: PLoS ONE. 2014 ; Vol. 9, No. 5. pp. e96811.

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TY - JOUR

T1 - To see or not to see: investigating detectability of Ganges River dolphins using a combined visual-acoustic survey

AU - Richman, N.

AU - Gibbons, J.M.

AU - Turvey, S.T.

AU - Akamatsu, T.

AU - Ahmed, Benazir

AU - Mahabub, E.

AU - Smith, B.D.

AU - Jones, Julia P.G.

N1 - Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); (grant number NE/I528734/1)

PY - 2014/5/7

Y1 - 2014/5/7

N2 - Detection of animals during visual surveys is rarely perfect or constant, and failure to account for imperfect detectability affects the accuracy of abundance estimates. Freshwater cetaceans are among the most threatened group of mammals, and visual surveys are a commonly employed method for estimating population size despite concerns over imperfect and unquantified detectability. We used a combined visual-acoustic survey to estimate detectability of Ganges River dolphins (Platanista gangetica gangetica) in four waterways of southern Bangladesh. The combined visual-acoustic survey resulted in consistently higher detectability than a single observer-team visual survey, thereby improving power to detect trends. Visual detectability was particularly low for dolphins close to meanders where these habitat features temporarily block the view of the preceding river surface. This systematic bias in detectability during visual-only surveys may lead researchers to underestimate the importance of heavily meandering river reaches. Although the benefits of acoustic surveys are increasingly recognised for marine cetaceans, they have not been widely used for monitoring abundance of freshwater cetaceans due to perceived costs and technical skill requirements. We show that acoustic surveys are in fact a relatively cost-effective approach for surveying freshwater cetaceans, once it is acknowledged that methods that do not account for imperfect detectability are of limited value for monitoring.

AB - Detection of animals during visual surveys is rarely perfect or constant, and failure to account for imperfect detectability affects the accuracy of abundance estimates. Freshwater cetaceans are among the most threatened group of mammals, and visual surveys are a commonly employed method for estimating population size despite concerns over imperfect and unquantified detectability. We used a combined visual-acoustic survey to estimate detectability of Ganges River dolphins (Platanista gangetica gangetica) in four waterways of southern Bangladesh. The combined visual-acoustic survey resulted in consistently higher detectability than a single observer-team visual survey, thereby improving power to detect trends. Visual detectability was particularly low for dolphins close to meanders where these habitat features temporarily block the view of the preceding river surface. This systematic bias in detectability during visual-only surveys may lead researchers to underestimate the importance of heavily meandering river reaches. Although the benefits of acoustic surveys are increasingly recognised for marine cetaceans, they have not been widely used for monitoring abundance of freshwater cetaceans due to perceived costs and technical skill requirements. We show that acoustic surveys are in fact a relatively cost-effective approach for surveying freshwater cetaceans, once it is acknowledged that methods that do not account for imperfect detectability are of limited value for monitoring.

U2 - 10.1371/journal.pone.0096811

DO - 10.1371/journal.pone.0096811

M3 - Article

VL - 9

SP - e96811

JO - PLoS ONE

T2 - PLoS ONE

JF - PLoS ONE

SN - 1932-6203

IS - 5

ER -