Evaluating a herpetofaunal monitoring program in the Rolling Plains of Texas
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We evaluated the herpetofaunal monitoring program on a state-owned property in the Rolling Plains ecoregion of Texas to determine whether the current study design and survey effort are meeting the following monitoring objectives: (1) inventory herpetofaunal diversity on the property, (2) improve understanding of herpetofaunal habitat preferences, and (3) track herpetofaunal response to land management activities. We used the iChao1 species richness estimator to evaluate the sample completeness of the current dataset, which was collected intermittently from 2004 to 2016. Species richness was evaluated by site and year as well as pooled across sites and years. Observed species richness across all sites and years was 23 species, and estimated richness was 23.999 (23.090-34.052, 95% CI). Observed species richness for each year was less than the cumulative total, with 20 species observed in 2004, 6 species observed in 2013, 11 species observed in 2014, and 19 species observed in 2016. The estimated species richness for individual years of sampling ranged from 6.250 to 39.320 species. Our analysis suggests that inadequate sampling design and effort prevents all three objectives from being addressed using the existing dataset. Necessary improvements to the monitoring program to meet all objectives include increasing the spatial and temporal scale of the monitoring effort and utilizing a random sampling protocol. Monitoring methods that address variation in detection probability, such as occupancy and mark-recapture, will also need to play a role. Our findings show that monitoring programs require substantial investment in materials and personnel to obtain datasets sufficient for rigorous biodiversity monitoring.
author list (cited authors)
Cash, J. S., Ruthven, D. C., & Fitzgerald, L. A.