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Occupancy patterns of an apex avian predator across a forest landscape


Cisterne, A and Crates, R and Bell, P and Heinsohn, R and Stojanovic, D, Occupancy patterns of an apex avian predator across a forest landscape, Austral Ecology, 45, (6) pp. 825-833. ISSN 1442-9985 (2020) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© 2020 Ecological Society of Australia

DOI: doi:10.1111/aec.12929


Apex predators are integral parts of every ecosystem, having top-down roles in food web maintenance. Understanding the environmental and habitat characteristics associated with predator occurrence is paramount to conservation efforts. However, detecting top order predators can be difficult due to small population sizes and cryptic behaviour. The endangered Tasmanian masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae castanops) is a nocturnal predator with a distribution understood to be associated with high mature forest cover at broad scales. With the aim to gather monitoring data to inform future conservation effort, we trialled an occupancy survey design to model masked owl occurrence across ~800 km2 in the Tasmanian Southern Forests. We conducted 662 visits to assess masked owl occupancy at 160 sites during July–September 2018. Masked owl site occupancy was 12%, and estimated detectability was 0.26 (±0.06 SE). Cumulative detection probability of masked owls over four visits was 0.7. Occupancy modelling suggested owls were more likely to be detected when mean prey count was higher. However, low detection rates hindered the development of confident occupancy predictions. To inform effective conservation of the endangered Tasmanian masked owl, there is a need to develop novel survey techniques that better account for the ecology of this rare, wide-ranging and cryptic predator. We discuss the potential to combine novel census approaches that exploit different aspects of masked owl ecology to obtain more robust and detailed data.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:detectability, forest, occupancy, owl, spatial autocorrelation
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Population ecology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences
UTAS Author:Bell, P (Dr Phillip Bell)
ID Code:150946
Year Published:2020
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2022-07-07
Last Modified:2022-08-11

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