Recent, worldwide amphibian declines have highlighted a need for more extensive and rigorous monitoring programs to document species occurrence and detect population change. Abundance estimation methods, such as mark-recapture, are often expensive and impractical for large-scale or long-term amphibian monitoring. We apply a new method to estimate proportion of area occupied using detection/nondetection data from a terrestrial salamander system in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Estimated species-specific detection probabilities were all <1 and varied among seven species and four sampling methods. Time (i.e., sampling occasion) and four large-scale habitat characteristics (previous disturbance history, vegetation type, elevation, and stream presence) were important covariates in estimates of both proportion of area occupied and detection probability. All sampling methods were consistent in their ability to identify important covariates for each salamander species. We believe proportion of area occupied represents a useful state variable for large-scale monitoring programs. However, our results emphasize the importance of estimating detection and occupancy probabilities rather than using an unadjusted proportion of sites where species are observed where actual occupancy probabilities are confounded with detection probabilities. Estimated detection probabilities accommodate variations in sampling effort; thus comparisons of occupancy probabilities are possible among studies with different sampling protocols.
Additional publication details
Estimating site occupancy and species detection probability parameters for terrestrial salamanders