ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202210.0295.v2
Subject: Biology, Ecology Keywords: Aaerial survey; animal detection; distance sampling; helicopter; monitoring; strip transect; Svalbard; total count; ungulate
Online: 2 December 2022 (03:36:25 CET)
Conservation of wildlife depends on precise and unbiased knowledge on the abundance and distribution of species. It is challenging to choose appropriate methods to obtain a sufficiently high detectability and spatial coverage matching the species characteristics and spatiotemporal use of the landscape. In remote regions, such as in the Arctic, monitoring efforts are often resource-intensive and there is a need for cheap and precise alternative methods. Here, we compare an uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV; quadcopter) pilot-survey of the non-gregarious Svalbard reindeer to traditional population abundance surveys from ground and helicopter to investigate whether UAVs can be an efficient alternative technology. We found that the UAV survey underestimated reindeer abundance compared to the traditional abundance surveys when used at management relevant spatial scales. Observer variation in reindeer detection on UAV imagery was influenced by the RGB greenness index and mean blue channel. In future studies, we suggest to test long-range fixed-wing UAVs to increase the sample size of reindeer and area coverage and incorporate detection probability in animal density models from UAV imagery. In addition, we encourage focus on more efficient post-processing techniques, including automatic animal object identification with machine learning and analytical methods that account for uncertainties.