Using a species distribution model to guide NSW surveys of the long-footed potoroo (Potorous longipes)

Mareshell Wauchope-Drumm*, Joss Bentley, Linda J. Beaumont, John B. Baumgartner, David A. Nipperess

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Knowledge of threatened species’ distributions is essential for effective conservation decision-making. Species distribution models (SDMs) are widely used to map species’ geographic ranges, identify new areas of suitable habitat and guide field surveys. In New South Wales (NSW), Australia, there are grave doubts about whether populations of the critically endangered long-footed potoroo (Potorous longipes) remain extant, and identification of occupied sites is a high priority for its conservation. We used an SDM (Maxent) to identify regions in NSW that may have suitable habitat for the potoroo. The SDM was built with seven climate layers and had strong predictive performance (cross-validated AUC = 0.94). We then combined this information on habitat suitability with vegetation and topography, to identify 58 survey sites across NSW. From April 2016 to May 2017, we undertook six field trips deploying six to eight cameras at each site for 52–63 days, resulting in 25 120 camera trap nights. A total of 215 759 images captured 43 native and feral animal species, but no long-footed potoroos. Following the survey, newly available, independent presence and absence data were used to validate our model. A Kruskal–Wallis H test indicated that habitat suitability values were significantly higher at presence locations than absence locations (= 58.66, d.f. = 1, < 0.001). Finally, we refitted the Maxent model with the new data and identified additional regions that future surveys could explore. We conclude, however, that if the long-footed potoroo remains extant in NSW, it is extremely rare.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume45
Issue number1
Early online date30 Oct 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

Keywords

  • conservation biology
  • Maxent
  • presence-only model
  • species distribution model
  • threatened species

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