Counting chirps: acoustic monitoring of cryptic frogs

G. John Measey, Ben C. Stevenson, Tanya Scott, Res Altwegg, David L. Borchers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


1.  Global amphibian declines have resulted in a vital need for monitoring programmes that follow population trends. Monitoring using advertisement calls is ideal as choruses are undisturbed during data collection. However, methods currently employed by managers frequently rely on trained observers, and/or do not provide density data on which to base trends.
2.  This study explores the utility of monitoring using acoustic spatially explicit capture-recapture (aSECR) with time of arrival (ToA) and signal strength (SS) as a quantitative monitoring technique to measure call density of a threatened but visually cryptic anuran, the Cape peninsula moss frog Arthroleptella lightfooti.
3.  The relationships between temporal and environmental variables (date, rainfall, temperature) and A. lightfooti call density at three study sites on the Cape peninsula, South Africa were examined. Acoustic data, collected from an array of six microphones over four months during the winter breeding season, provided a time series of call density estimates.
4.  Model selection indicated that call density was primarily associated with seasonality fitted as a quadratic function. Call density peaked mid-breeding season. At the main study site, the lowest recorded mean call density (0·160 calls m-2 min-1) occurred in May and reached its peak mid-July (1·259 calls m-2 min-1). The sites differed in call density, but also the effective sampling area.
5Synthesis and applications.The monitoring technique, acoustic spatially explicit capture–recapture (aSCR), quantitatively estimates call density without disturbing the calling animals or their environment, while time of arrival (ToA) and signal strength (SS) significantly add to the accuracy of call localisation, which in turn increases precision of call density estimates without the need for specialist field staff. This technique appears ideally suited to aid the monitoring of visually cryptic, acoustically active species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)894-902
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date1 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Acoustic spatially explicit capture-recapture
  • Signal strength
  • Time of arrival
  • Triangulation
  • Anurans


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