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Estimating population size in the European tree frog (Hyla arborea) using individual recognition and chorus counts

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Chorus counts are widely used to assess population abundance in breeding anurans. It is however unclear how such counts translate into true population sizes. We monitored chorus activity in two populations of the European tree frog (Hyla arborea) over three years, while simultaneously conducting a capture-mark-recapture (CMR) study on breeding males. Three to four capture sessions were made each year, spread across the acme of the breeding season. Individual recognition was ensured by photographs of the linea marginalis. We used Pollock's robust design to test several biological hypotheses and estimate demographic parameters. Male survival was estimated as mean ±SE = 0.297 ± 0.154. Population trends deduced from chorus counts (maximum or mean) and modelled male population sizes were not concordant. We showed that there is no simple relationship between maximum or mean chorus size and modelled male population sizes estimated from CMR study and that population trends inferred from chorus counts are likely to be biased to an unknown extent. Even though CMR methods need significant time and personnel investments in order to produce reliable results, we advocate their use in the study of pond breeding amphibians' demography, as it provides unbiased and more precise estimates.

Affiliations: 1: Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA; 2: Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland


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