Camera Traps in Animal Ecology

pp 207-231

Species Richness and Community Dynamics: A Conceptual Framework

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The study of animal communities has a long history in many branches of ecology, for instance in community ecology, biogeography and conservation biology. Furthermore, characterizing the size, composition and dynamics of animal communities is also important from a management perspective. For instance, community characteristics such as total size (species richness) or the size of certain subsets (e.g., number of rare or Red listed species) are often used to direct conservation efforts or to monitor their effectiveness. Camera traps can be used to study the size, composition and dynamics of animal communities, especially for large and medium-sized mammals and birds, terrestrial animals and particularly for nocturnal species. Although camera trap data can be treated in much the same way as data from other methods of sampling animal communities, it is particularly suited for capture–recapture-type analyses, given the ease with which discrete capture periods are defined. One important feature of camera-trap data as used for community inference is that the surveyed communities are typically not very large. Hence, the inferential challenges caused by the possible presence of a very large number of very rare or elusive species (Mao and Colwell 2005) are presumably greatly alleviated.