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Does habitat structure influence capture probabilities? A study of reptiles in a eucalypt forest

Craig, M.D, Grigg, A.H., Garkaklis, M.J., Hobbs, R.J., Grant, C.D., Fleming, P.A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0626-3851 and Hardy, G.E.St.J. (2009) Does habitat structure influence capture probabilities? A study of reptiles in a eucalypt forest. Wildlife Research, 36 (6). pp. 509-515.

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Pitfall traps are commonly used to examine differences in reptile communities among habitat types and disturbance regimes that differ in structure. However, capture rates and probabilities may be influenced by habitat structure, which invalidates comparisons of relative abundance among habitat types. To assess whether pitfall traps provide accurate reflections of density and whether habitat structure affects capture probabilities, we trapped at six sites in various jarrah-forest habitat types in south-western Australia, then intensively searched 150-m2 total-removal plots around each pitfall grid to obtain absolute densities of reptiles. Pitfall captures were significantly correlated with numbers on total-removal plots for Hemiergis initialis and Lerista distinguenda, indicating that pitfall traps provided accurate reflections of density for these species. Capture probabilities of H. initialis and L. distinguenda and all reptiles combined showed no significant correlations with any structural variables, indicating that capture probabilities were consistent across sites. We conclude that trapping provided accurate estimates of relative abundance for some species and that capture probabilities were not influenced by vegetation structure. Because many studies use trapping to estimate abundances among habitat types, we encourage researchers to investigate how vegetation structure influences capture probabilities, so that general patterns can be determined; we also suggest improvements for any future studies.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Phytophthora Science and Management
School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
School of Environmental Science
School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2009 CSIRO
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