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Filming and snorkelling as visual techniques to survey fauna in difficult to access tropical rainforest streams

Brendan C. Ebner A B D E , Christopher J. Fulton C , Stephen Cousins D , James A. Donaldson A B , Mark J. Kennard D , Jan-Olaf Meynecke D and Jason Schaffer A

A TropWATER, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.
B Land and Water, CSIRO, Atherton, Qld 4883, Australia.
C Evolution, Ecology and Genetics, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.
D Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Qld 4111, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: brendan.ebner@csiro.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13339
Submitted: 20 December 2013  Accepted: 7 May 2014   Published online: 16 October 2014


 
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Abstract

Dense tropical rainforest, waterfalls and shallow riffle-run-pool sequences pose challenges for researcher access to remote reaches of streams for surveying aquatic fauna, particularly when using capture-based collecting techniques (e.g. trapping, backpack and boat electrofishing). We compared the detection of aquatic species (vertebrates and invertebrates >1 cm in body length) within pool habitats of a rainforest stream obtained by two visual techniques during both the wet and dry season: active visual survey by snorkelling and baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVSs). Snorkelling detected more species than a single BRUVS at each site, both within and among seasons. Snorkelling was most effective for recording the presence and abundance of diurnally active small-bodied species (adult size <150 mm total length), although both techniques were comparable in detecting large-bodied taxa (turtles, fish and eels). On the current evidence, snorkelling provides the most sensitive and rapid visual technique for detecting rainforest stream fauna. However, in stream sections dangerous to human observers (e.g. inhabited by crocodiles, entanglement, extreme flows), we recommend a stratified deployment of multiple BRUVSs across a range of stream microhabitats within each site.

Additional keywords: inconspicuous fauna, species richness, underwater video, underwater visual census, wet tropics.


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