Failure to detect a species in an area where it is present is a major source of error in biological surveys. We assessed whether it is possible to optimize single-visit biological monitoring surveys of highly dynamic freshwater ecosystems by framing them a priori within a particular period of time. Alternatively, we also searched for the optimal number of visits and when they should be conducted. We developed single-species occupancy models to estimate the monthly probability of detection of pond-breeding amphibians during a four-year monitoring program. Our results revealed that detection probability was species-specific and changed among sampling visits within a breeding season and also among breeding seasons. Thereby, the optimization of biological surveys with minimal survey effort (a single visit) is not feasible as it proves impossible to select a priori an adequate sampling period that remains robust across years. Alternatively, a two-survey combination at the beginning of the sampling season yielded optimal results and constituted an acceptable compromise between sampling efficacy and survey effort. Our study provides evidence of the variability and uncertainty that likely affects the efficacy of monitoring surveys, highlighting the need of repeated sampling in both ecological studies and conservation management.
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Vol. 47 • No. 5