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Despite concern over amphibian declines, few studies estimate absolute abundances because of logistic and economic constraints and previously poor estimator performance. Two estimation approaches recommended for amphibian studies are mark-recapture and depletion (or removal) sampling. We compared abundance estimation via various mark-recapture and depletion methods, using data from a three-year study of terrestrial salamanders in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our results indicate that short-term closed-population, robust design, and depletion methods estimate surface population of salamanders (i.e., those near the surface and available for capture during a given sampling occasion). In longer duration studies, temporary emigration violates assumptions of both open- and closed-population mark-recapture estimation models. However, if the temporary emigration is completely random, these models should yield unbiased estimates of the total population (superpopulation) of salamanders in the sampled area. We recommend using Pollock's robust design in mark-recapture studies because of its flexibility to incorporate variation in capture probabilities and to estimate temporary emigration probabilities.
Additional Publication Details
Comparing population size estimators for plethodontid salamanders