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Clustered or dispersed: testing the effect of sampling strategy to census burrow-nesting petrels with varied distributions at sub-Antarctic Marion Island

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 August 2019

Ben J. Dilley*
Affiliation:
FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
David W. Hedding
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, University of South Africa, Florida 1710, South Africa
Dominic A.W. Henry
Affiliation:
The Endangered Wildlife Trust, Johannesburg 1645, South Africa Statistics in Ecology, Environment and Conservation, Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa
Kalinka Rexer-Huber
Affiliation:
Parker Conservation, 126 Maryhill Terrace, Dunedin, New Zealand
Graham C. Parker
Affiliation:
Parker Conservation, 126 Maryhill Terrace, Dunedin, New Zealand
Stefan Schoombie
Affiliation:
FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
Alexis Osborne
Affiliation:
FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
Peter G. Ryan
Affiliation:
FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa

Abstract

We compared systematic and random survey techniques to estimate breeding population sizes of burrow-nesting petrel species on Marion Island. White-chinned (Procellaria aequinoctialis) and blue (Halobaena caerulea) petrel population sizes were estimated in systematic surveys (which attempt to count every colony) in 2009 and 2012, respectively. In 2015, we counted burrows of white-chinned, blue and great-winged (Pterodroma macroptera) petrels within 52 randomized strip transects (25 m wide, total 144 km). Burrow densities were extrapolated by Geographic Information System-derived habitat attributes (geology, vegetation, slope, elevation, aspect) to generate island-wide burrow estimates. Great-winged petrel burrows were found singly or in small groups at low densities (2 burrows ha−1); white-chinned petrel burrows were in loose clusters at moderate densities (3 burrows ha−1); and blue petrel burrows were in tight clusters at high densities (13 burrows ha−1). The random survey estimated 58% more white-chinned petrels but 42% fewer blue petrels than the systematic surveys. The results suggest that random transects are best suited for species that are widely distributed at low densities, but become increasingly poor for estimating population sizes of species with clustered distributions. Repeated fixed transects provide a robust way to monitor changes in colony density and area, but might fail to detect the formation/disappearance of new colonies.

Type
Biological Sciences
Copyright
Copyright © Antarctic Science Ltd 2019 

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