, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 29-37

Improving multispecies rocky reef fish censuses by counting different groups of species using different procedures

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A number of factors can influence the accuracy and precision of underwater visual transect techniques. Among these are observer swimming speed and, during multispecies surveys, the effect of counting all fishes on estimates of particular species. This paper examines the effect of these factors on population estimates of inconspicuous fishes (defined as Type 1) in a temperate reef fish assemblage near Sydney, Australia. Counting Type 1 fishes with all others yielded significantly lower estimates of species richness and abundance than when counted alone. This suggests that multispecies surveys should be split into 2 or more counts, using a census procedure that is appropriate to the group of species cencused. Further, the effect of counting all other fishes on estimates of Type 1 fishes varied according to the relative abundance of the former: their effect was lowest when abundance of other fishes was lowest. There was a negative relationship between observer speed and estimated abundance for Type 1 fishes. Survey precision of Type 1 fishes was generally improved by surveying at slower observer speeds.