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Pacific Conservation Biology Pacific Conservation Biology Society
A journal dedicated to conservation and wildlife management in the Pacific region.

Compliance is not necessarily good science. The Environmental Protection Authority’s vertebrate fauna survey guidelines should be revised

Graham G. Thompson A B * and Scott A. Thompson A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Terrestrial Ecosystems, 10 Houston Place, Mt Claremont, WA 6010, Australia.

B School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia, Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

C School of Molecular and Life Sciences, Curtin University, Kent Street, Bentley, WA 6102, Australia.

Handling Editor: Mike Calver

Pacific Conservation Biology 30, PC23040
Submitted: 13 September 2023  Accepted: 12 November 2023  Published: 4 December 2023

© 2024 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)). Published by CSIRO Publishing



The Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA’s) terrestrial fauna survey guidelines for detailed surveys recommends a two-season survey with a minimum of one, or a few survey sites, for each fauna habitat.


This study demonstrates that in two common fauna habitat types and probably most others, this survey effort is unlikely to provide an indication of species richness and abundance.


A pit and funnel trapping program targeting small ground dwelling mammals and reptiles was replicated in 20 trapping sites over two survey periods in two different fauna habitat types.


For most project areas, compliance with the EPA’s guidelines is unlikely to provide better quality data on species richness than publicly available from a desktop assessment.


It is difficult to provide an adequate scientific justification for undertaking low intensity surveys when desktop surveys will mostly provide better quality information for an environmental impact assessment (EIA), and these surveys probably should not be approved by an animal ethics committee.


When preparing for and undertaking vertebrate fauna surveys for an EIA, environmental practitioners should place greater emphasis on the scientific validity and robustness of the proposed surveys rather than just complying with an EPA technical guidance. The EPA’s technical vertebrate fauna survey guidance should be completely rewritten.

Keywords: animal ethics, environmental consultants, environmental practitioners, impact assessments, mammals, reptiles, vertebrate fauna surveys, Western Australia.


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