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Can an acoustic observatory contribute to conservation of threatened species?

Schwarzkopf L, Roe P, Mcdonald PG, Watson DM, Fuller RA & Allen-Ankins S (2023) Can an acoustic observatory contribute to conservation of threatened species? Austral Ecology, 48, 1230-1237.

Observatories are designed to collect data for a range of uses. The Australian Acoustic Observatory (A2O) was established to collect environmental sound, including audible species calls, from 344 recorders at 86 sites around Australia. We examine the potential of the A2O to monitor near threatened, threatened, endangered and critically endangered species, based on their vocal behaviour, geographic distributions in relation to the sites of the A2O and on some knowledge of habitat use. Using IUCN and EPBC lists of threatened and endangered species, we extracted species that vocalized in the audible range, and using conservative estimates of their geographic ranges, determined whether there was a possibility of hearing them at these sites. We found that it may be possible to detect up to 171 threatened species at sites established for the A2O, and that individual sites have the potential to detect up to 40 threatened species. All 86 sites occurred in locations where threatened species could possibly be detected, and the list of detectable species included birds, amphibians, and mammals. We have incidentally detected one mammal and four bird species in the data during other work. Threatening processes to which potentially detectable species were exposed included all but two IUCN threat categories. We concluded that with applications of technology to search the audio data from the A2O, it could serve as an important tool for monitoring threatened species.

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