Estimating site occupancy and detectability of the threatened partridge pigeon (Geophaps smithii) using camera traps

Date: 03, Apr, 2019
Author(s):   Davies, H.F., Rioli, W., Puruntatameri, J., Roberts, W., Kerinaiua, C., Kerinauia, V., Womatakimi, K.B., Gillespie, G.R., Murphy, B.P.
Publisher: Austral Ecology

Since European settlement, many granivorous birds of northern Australia's savanna landscapes have declined. One such example, the partridge pigeon (Geophaps smithii), has suffered a significant range contraction, disappearing from at least half of its pre‐European range. Multiple factors have been implicated in this decline, including the loss of traditional Aboriginal burning practices, grazing by large exotic herbivores and predation by feral cats (Felis catus). While populations of partridge pigeon on the Tiwi Islands may be particularly important for the long‐term persistence of this species, they too may be at risk of decline. However, as a reliable method to detect this species has not yet been developed and tested, we lack the ability to identify, at an early stage, the species' decline in a given location or region. This severely limits our capacity to make informed management decisions. Here, we demonstrate that the standard camera trapping approach for native mammal monitoring in northern Australia attained an overall probability of detecting partridge pigeon greater than 0.98. We thus provide a robust estimate of partridge pigeon site occupancy (0.30) on Melville Island, the larger of the two main Tiwi Islands. The information presented here for the partridge pigeon represents a critical first step towards the development of optimal monitoring programmes with which to gauge population trajectories, as well as the response to remedial management actions. In the face of ongoing biodiversity loss, such baseline information is vital for management agencies to make informed decisions and should therefore be sought for as many species as possible.