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Methods Ecol Evol - 2023 - Ahmed - Simulating capture efficiency of pitfall traps based on sampling strategy and the.pdf (1.78 MB)

Simulating capture efficiency of pitfall traps based on sampling strategy and the movement of ground-dwelling arthropods

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posted on 2023-11-08, 15:25 authored by DA Ahmed, A Beidas, SV Petrovskii, JD Bailey, MB Bonsall, ASC Hood, JA Byers, EJ Hudgins, JC Russell, J Růžičková, TW Bodey, D Renault, E Bonnaud, PJ Haubrock, I Soto, P Haase

Pitfall traps are frequently used to capture ground-dwelling arthropods, particularly beetles, ants and spiders. The capture efficiency of a pitfall trapping system strongly depends on the number and opening size of traps, how traps are distributed over the sampling area (spatial arrangement) and the movement characteristics of arthropods.

We use numerical simulations for a single species to analyse the trap count patterns that emerge from these variables. Arthropod movement of individuals is modelled as correlated random walks, with multiple traps placed over an area, and catches are simulated as individual interaction with traps. We consider four different types of spatial arrangements of traps across a homogeneous landscape: grid (i.e. rectangular array), transect, nested-cross and randomised. We contextualise our results by considering the locomotion of Pterostichus melanarius, a highly active carabid beetle often serving as a biocontrol agent for the suppression of pest insects and weeds.

By simulating the trapping of randomly moving ground-dwelling arthropods, we show that there is an optimal inter-trap separation distance (trap spacing) that maximises captures, that can be expressed using exact formulae in terms of trap opening sizes, sampling area and trap number. Moreover, for the grid and nested-cross arrangements, larger trap spacing to maximise spatial coverage over the whole sampling area is suboptimal. Also, we find that over a large sampling area, there is a hierarchical order for spatial arrangements in relation to capture efficiency: grid, randomised, transect, followed by the nested-cross. However, over smaller sampling areas, this order is changed as the rate at which trap counts accumulate with trap number varies across arrangements—eventually saturating at different levels. In terms of movement effects, capture efficiency is maximised over a narrow diffusive range and does not depend strongly on the type of spatial arrangement—indicating an approximate optimal mode of arthropod activity, i.e. rate of spread.

Our approach simultaneously considers several important experimental design aspects of pitfall trapping providing a basis to optimise and adapt sampling protocols to other types of traps to better reflect their various purposes, such as monitoring, conservation or pest management.


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Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

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Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST; Internal Seed Grant). Grant Number: 234597


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School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, University of Leicester


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Methods in Ecology and Evolution













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