Evaluating the effects of observation period, floral density, and weather conditions on the consistency and accuracy of timed pollinator counts
Keywords:Ecosystem services, insect declines, non-detection errors, pollinator monitoring, bees, Syrphidae
Insect pollinators are experiencing substantial declines as a result of habitat loss, agricultural intensification, invasive pests, and climate change. To investigate factors causing pollinator declines, evaluate the success of conservation measures, and institute long-term monitoring schemes, it is essential to validate and standardize pollinator sampling techniques. This study investigated how sampling duration, weather conditions, and abundance of floral resources influenced the results of timed pollinator counts by repeatedly sampling the same pollinator assemblage in an Irish meadow. The likelihood of detection of Apis mellifera, Bombus spp, solitary bees, and Syrphidae was strongly associated with the density of floral units or floral cover in the observation plot. Also, even though protocol criteria restricted pollinator counts to the middle of the day and benevolent weather, pollinator counts were strongly influenced by factors such as cloud cover, light levels, wind speed and relative humidity. Increasing the duration of the timed counts from 5-minutes to 30-minutes considerably increased the probability of detection of each pollinator group. Additionally, the perceived diversity of the pollinator assemblage at the meadow was markedly affected by sampling duration and floral abundance. To improve the consistency or comparability of studies using timed pollinator counts, we recommend that criteria are set restricting surveys to narrow ranges of weather conditions and floral density when possible. Additionally, pollinator field investigations or monitoring programs would benefit from a systematic evaluation of how erroneous non-detection of target taxa can be reduced to acceptable levels by modifying sampling duration.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Neil Mahon, Simon Hodge
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