Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

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

Michael D. Craig A G , Andrew H. Grigg B , Mark J. Garkaklis C , Richard J. Hobbs D F , Carl D. Grant B , Patricia A. Fleming E and Giles E. St J. Hardy A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.

B Alcoa World Alumina Australia, Pinjarra, WA 6208, Australia.

C Swan Regional Services, Department of Environment and Conservation, Kensington, WA 6151, Australia.

D School of Environmental Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.

E School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.

F Present address: School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

G Corresponding author. Email: M.Craig@murdoch.edu.au

Wildlife Research 36(6) 509-515 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR09014
Submitted: 6 February 2009  Accepted: 30 June 2009   Published: 29 September 2009


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.


We thank Rod Armistead, Finlay Bender, Kaitlyn Height and Angela Mercier who assisted with the total-removal plots and Anna Whitfield, Dion Trevithick-Harney, Alicia Sparnon, Adam Peck, Angela Mercier, Kaitlyn Height, Finlay Bender and Jane Adcroft who helped install trapping grids. We also thank Christine Schlesinger who provided constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This project was conducted with Department of Environment and Conservation Permit No. SF005179 and Murdoch University Animal Ethics Committee Approval No. W1152/05. Financial support was provided by Alcoa World Alumina Australia and Australian Research Council Linkage Grant No. LP0455309.


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