Little quantitative information exists about the survey effort necessary to inventory temperate bat species assemblages. We used a bootstrap resampling algorithm to estimate the number of mist net surveys required to capture individuals from 9 species at both study area and site levels using data collected in a forested watershed in northwestern California, USA, during 1996–2000. The mean number of simulated surveys required to capture individual species varied with species' rarity and ranged from 1.5 to 44.9. We retrospectively evaluated strategies to reduce required survey effort by subsampling data from 1996 to 1998 and tested the strategies in the field during 1999 and 2000. Using data from 1996 to 1998, the mean number of simulated surveys required to capture 8 out of 9 species was 26.3, but a 95% probability of capture required >61 surveys. Inventory efficiency, defined as the cumulative proportion of species detected per survey effort, improved for both the study area and individual sites by conducting surveys later in summer. We realized further improvements in study area inventory efficiency by focusing on productive sites. We found that 3 surveys conducted between 1 July and 10 September at each of 4 productive sites in this 10-km2 study area resulted in the capture of 8 species annually. Quantitative estimation of the survey effort required to assess bat species occurrence improves the ability to plan and execute reliable, efficient inventories. Results from our study should be useful for planning inventories in nearby geographical areas and similar habitat types; further, the analytical methods we used to assess effort are broadly applicable to other survey methods and taxa.
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