Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 55–73 | Cite as

Trade-offs between sampling effort and data quality in habitat monitoring

  • Silvia Del VecchioEmail author
  • Edy Fantinato
  • Giulia Silan
  • Gabriella Buffa
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Biodiversity protection and reserves


The transect method has been widely used to monitor habitat conservation status and has been recently recommended as the best tool to monitor steep ecological gradients, such as those in coastal systems. Despite that, the effectiveness of the transect approach can be limited when considering the sampling effort in terms of time needed for sampling. Our work aimed at evaluating the efficacy of the transect approach in a Mediterranean coastal system. Specifically we aimed at evaluating the sampling effort versus the completeness of datasets obtained by performing belt transects in different ways specifically designed to progressively reduce the sampling effort: (i) sampling plots adjacently (“adjacent-plot transect”); (ii) sampling plots alternately (“alternate-plot transect”); (iii) sampling one plot at each plant community along the vegetation zonation (“zonation-plot transect”). We evaluated method efficiency in terms of number and type of habitats identified, spatial extent, species richness and composition, through multivariate analyses, null models and rarefaction curves. The sampling effort was measured in terms of time needed for sampling. The zonation-plot transect had the lowest sampling effort, but provided only an approximation of the state of the dunal communities. The alternate-plot transect showed the best trade-off between the sampling effort and the completeness of information obtained, and may be considered as a efficient option in very wide coastal systems. Our research provides guidelines that can be used in other coastal systems to choose the most cost-effective monitoring method thereby maximising the efficient use of monitoring resources.


Coastal sand dunes Habitat risk assessment Data collection Sampling efficiency Belt transect 

Supplementary material

10531_2018_1636_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (569 kb)
Online Resource 1 DCA scatter diagram and cluster dendrogram of vegetation plots, for the three types of transects. Technical results of multivariate analyses relative to each transect are summarized in tables OR1, OR2, and OR3, respectively. The habitat 2130* was represented by 2 plant communities, one dominated by chamaephytes, with prevalence of Fumana procumbens and Helianthemum nummularium ssp. obscurum, corresponding to Tortulo-Scabiosetum, and one with prevalence of Lomelosia argentea and Medicago littoralis, corresponding to Sileno conicae-Avellinietum michelii. Plant communities nomenclature follows Sburlino et al. (2013). Supplementary material 1 (PDF 568 kb)
10531_2018_1636_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (184 kb)
Online Resource 2 Species composition and cover for each plant community in each type of transect. Focal species were only defined for Natura 2000 habitat types. Species nomenclature follows Conti et al. (2005). * Priority habitats (EU Habitat Directive). Supplementary material 2 (PDF 184 kb)
10531_2018_1636_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (701 kb)
Online Resource 3 Rarefaction curves of the indicator species groups for each plant community, in the adjacent- and alternate-plot transect. Bars represent the 95% confidence interval. The zonation-plot transect, as well as the habitat 1210 are not shown. Focal species of Helichrysum and Spartina communities are not shown, since they were not recognized as Natura 2000 habitats. Supplementary material 3 (PDF 701 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ca’ Foscari University of VeniceVeniceItaly

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