Documenting timing, locations, and intensity of spawning can provide valuable information for conservation and management of imperiled fishes. However, deep, turbid or turbulent water, or occurrence of spawning at night, can severely limit direct observations. We have developed and tested the use of passive acoustics to detect distinctive acoustic signatures associated with spawning events of two large-bodied catostomid species (River Redhorse Moxostoma carinatum and Robust Redhorse Moxostoma robustum) in river systems in north Georgia. We deployed a hydrophone with a recording unit at four different locations on four different dates when we could both record and observe spawning activity. Recordings captured 494 spawning events that we acoustically characterized using dominant frequency, 95% frequency, relative power, and duration. We similarly characterized 46 randomly selected ambient river noises. Dominant frequency did not differ between redhorse species and ranged from 172.3 to 14,987.1 Hz. Duration of spawning events ranged from 0.65 to 11.07 s, River Redhorse having longer durations than Robust Redhorse. Observed spawning events had significantly higher dominant and 95% frequencies than ambient river noises. We additionally tested software designed to automate acoustic detection. The automated detection configurations correctly identified 80–82% of known spawning events, and falsely indentified spawns 6–7% of the time when none occurred. These rates were combined over all recordings; rates were more variable among individual recordings. Longer spawning events were more likely to be detected. Combined with sufficient visual observations to ascertain species identities and to estimate detection error rates, passive acoustic recording provides a useful tool to study spawning frequency of large-bodied fishes that displace gravel during egg deposition, including several species of imperiled catostomids.
Additional publication details
Passive acoustic monitoring to detect spawning in large-bodied catostomids