Editor’s Choice 57:11 – An integrated approach using passive acoustic monitors and camera traps to measure hunting activity and its impacts on mammalian populations

Associate Editor, Sharif A. Mukul, introduces the November Editor’s Choice paper, which demonstrates that acoustic monitoring technologies detect far more instances of hunting than camera traps.

Unsustainable hunting is one of the major challenges to wildlife and healthy forests worldwide. While subsistence hunting is widespread in many parts of the tropics, over-hunting can have a detrimental effect on wildlife populations, particularly mammals.

In recent years, passive acoustic monitors have become increasingly prevalent in ecological studies and proved to be an effective tool in monitoring species diversity by characterising unique volcalisations among species.

Here, Dobbins and colleagues use an integrated approach, combining acoustic monitoring and camera traps, to assess hunting intensity and its impacts on terrestrial mammals in four protected areas in southern Belize. They hypothesised that acoustic monitors may have the capacity to capture more hunting events than camera traps, and that hunting pressure was likely to influence spatial patterns of mammal species richness and occurrence in the impact zone.

Dobbing HA
Point density functions of hunting distribution and intensity derived from camera traps (left) and acoustic monitors (right) in and around four protected areas in southern Belize.

Their results show that camera traps under-detected hunting activity by 939% compared to acoustic monitors, and that hunting activity was negatively correlated with site-level species richness, with an average decrease in richness of 31% across its range of variation. Occurrence patterns for the three functional groups were also negatively correlated with hunting intensity, with herbivores displaying the strongest negative response to hunting and omnivores the least affected.

This integrated approach provides important insight into mammalian species’ sensitivity to increasing hunting pressure and emphasises the need for robust tools to accurately monitor hunting activity and its impacts on mammalian communities.

Future research should focus on developing tools and frameworks which include other hunting measures that might be difficult to capture by acoustic monitoring.

The full Editor’s Choice article, An integrated approach to measure hunting intensity and assess its impacts on mammal populations, is free to read for a limited time in Journal of Applied Ecology

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