Because the new technique, reported in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, will also work with whale song, it could lead to a major advance in our ability to monitor whale and dolphin numbers.
Developed by Deanna Dawson of the US Geological Survey and Murray Efford of the University of Otago, New Zealand, the technique is an innovative combination of sound recording with spatially explicit capture-recapture (SECR), a new version of one of ecologists' oldest tools for monitoring animal populations.
Birds communicate by singing or calling, and biologists have long counted these cues to get an index of bird abundance. But it is much harder to work out the actual density of a bird population because existing methods need observers to measure either the distance to each bird, or whether they are within a set distance from the observer. This is straightforward if birds are seen, but difficult when birds are heard but not seen.
According to Dawson: "We devised a way to estimate population density of birds or other animals that vocalise by combining sound information from several microphones. A sound spreading through a forest or other habitat leaves a 'footprint'. The size of the footprint depends on how quickly the sound attenuates. Mathematically, there is a unique combination of population density and attenuation rate that best matches the number and 'size' of the recorded sounds. We used computer methods to find the best match, and thereby estimate density."
Dawson and Efford developed the method by recording the ovenbird – a warbler more often heard than seen – in deciduous forest at the Patuxent Research Refuge near Laurel, Maryland, USA. They rigged up four microphones close to the ground in a square with 21 metre-long sides. Over five days, they moved the microphones to 75 different points across their study area and recorded ovenbirds singing.
They chose the ovenbird as the species from which to develop the method because of its concise, distinctive song and because the males sing from the lower layers of the forest.
The new acoustic technique gives a more accurate estimate of bird numbers than using nets to capture birds, which can be stressful for the birds as well as time consuming for the researchers.
As well as helping assess populations of cryptic bird species such as the ovenbird, the new technique might be applied to measuring hard-to-reach populations of marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins. Developing ways of estimating whale and dolphin numbers acoustically is seen as critical for understanding these species' populations.
Recording the sounds has other benefits, too. "Sound intensity and other characteristics can be measured from the spectrogram – the graph of the sounds – to improve density estimates. Archiving the sounds also makes it possible to re-examine them, or to extract additional information as analytical methods evolve," says Dawson.
Deanna K. Dawson and Murray G. Efford (2009). Bird population density estimated from acoustic signals, Journal of Applied Ecology, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01731.x, is published online on 27 November 2009.
Becky Allen | EurekAlert!
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.
Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...
A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.
Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.05.2018 | Information Technology
18.05.2018 | Information Technology