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Turning the tide: understanding estuarine detection range variability via structural equation models
Bruneel, S.; Goossens, J.; Reubens, J.; Pauwels, I.; Moens, T.; Goethals, P.; Verhelst, P. (2023). Turning the tide: understanding estuarine detection range variability via structural equation models. Animal Biotelemetry 11(1): 38.
In: Animal Biotelemetry. BioMed Central/Springer Nature: London. e-ISSN 2050-3385, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Marine/Coastal; Brackish water
Author keywords
    Passive acoustic telemetry, Detection range, Estuary, Structural equation modelling (pSEM), Statistical power analysis

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    Insight into the detection range of acoustic telemetry systems is crucial for both sampling design and data interpretation. The detection range is highly dependent on the environmental conditions and can consequently be substantially different among aquatic systems. Also within systems, temporal variability can be significant. The number of studies to assess the detection range in different systems has been growing, though there remains a knowledge gap in estuarine habitats. In this study, a 2-month experimental set-up was used to assess the detection range variability and affecting environmental factors of an estuary. Given the expected complex interplay of different factors and the difficulties it entails for interpretation, a structural equation modelling (pSEM) approach is proposed. The detection range of this estuarine study was relatively low and variable (average 50% detectability of 106 m and ranging between 72 and 229 m) compared to studies of riverine and marine systems. The structural equation models revealed a clear, yet complex, tidal pattern in detection range variability which was mainly affected by water speed (via ambient noise and tilt of the receivers), water depth and wind speed. The negative effect of ambient noise and positive effect of water depth became more pronounced at larger distances. Ambient noise was not only affected by water speed, but also by water depth, precipitation, tilt angle and wind speed. Although the tilt was affected by water speed, water depth and wind speed, most of the variability in tilt could be traced back to the receiver locations. Similarly, the receiver locations seemed to explain a considerable portion of the detection range variability. Retrospective power analyses indicated that for most factors only a minor gain in explanatory power was achieved after more than two days of data collecting. Redirecting some of the sampling effort towards more spatially extensive measurements seems to be a relevant manner to improve the insights in the performance of telemetry systems in estuarine environments. Since the low and variable detection range in estuaries can seriously hamper ecological inferences, range tests with sound sampling designs and appropriate modelling techniques are paramount.

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