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Go beyond species lists in your surveys and BioBlitzes.
Four simple tweaks that make surveys much more useful for long-term monitoring.
written Jun 8, 2018 • by jonsullivan • Category: Wild Counting
BioBlitz organisers, ecological consultants, and taxonomists share one common flaw: they all like to make simple species lists. Some number of people wander around in a place for some amount of time and write down a list of the species they find. It gives a rapid glimpse of what is living at a site. What it doesn’t do, however, is give a robust enough view for others to repeat to document trends. This is a big lost opportunity.
The problem is that these lists are almost always samples, not censuses, of all the species at a site. Some unknown proportion of all the species will have been overlooked or missed. How many? Where?
If your species lists were collected using ecological survey methods, you can figure this out. If you didn’t, then you can’t. That means that if new species are found in later surveys, you won’t know how likely it is that they were missed the first time or are really new arrivals. That greatly limits the usefulness of simple species lists for long-term monitoring.
It doesn’t need to be this way. In the following articles I introduce four simple tweaks you can make to surveys and BioBlitz events that will make them much more useful for long-term monitoring. They acknowledge that, in all likelihood, you won’t find all the species at a site, and that you will make some identification mistakes. These simple tweaks allow you, or others, to estimate how many species were missed and how many mistakes were made. That is important to know when calculating long-term trends from repeated surveys.
Tap on each link to read more.
And there you have it
These tweaks will be a fair amount more to think about, if you’re used to just rambling about and recording things as you find them. However, none of the tweaks I’m suggesting are especially difficult or time consuming. Most people are already collecting evidence in photos or recordings of some of the species they find. Otherwise it just takes a little more care documenting the what-where-when-why-how-who, and a commitment to consistently record in repeating units of space and/or time.
If you’ve made simple species lists before, don’t discard them. So long as the identifications are solid, those lists can still be used for detecting species declines when followed up with properly tweaked out surveys.