Original Research

Sampling bias in reptile occurrence data for the Kruger National Park

Jody M. Barends, Darren W. Pietersen, Guinevere Zambatis, Donovan R.C. Tye, Bryan Maritz
Koedoe | Vol 62, No 1 | a1579 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v62i1.1579 | © 2020 Jody M. Barends, Darren W. Pietersen, Guinevere Zambatis, Donovan R.C. Tye, Bryan Maritz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 July 2019 | Published: 11 May 2020

About the author(s)

Jody M. Barends, Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Darren W. Pietersen, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Guinevere Zambatis, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa
Donovan R.C. Tye, Organization for Tropical Studies, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa
Bryan Maritz, Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

o effectively conserve and manage species, it is important to (1) understand how they are spatially distributed across the globe at both broad and fine spatial resolutions and (2) elucidate the determinants of these distributions. However, information pertaining to the distributions of many species remains poor as occurrence data are often scarce or collected with varying motivations, making the resulting patterns susceptible to sampling bias. Exacerbating an already limited quantity of occurrence data with an assortment of biases hinders their effectiveness for research, thus making it important to identify and understand the biases present within species occurrence data sets. We quantitatively assessed occurrence records of 126 reptile species occurring in the Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa, to quantify the severity of sampling bias within this data set. We collated a data set of 7118 occurrence records from museum, literature and citizen science sources and analysed these at a biologically relevant spatial resolution of 1 km × 1 km. As a result of logistical challenges associated with sampling in KNP, approximately 92% of KNP is data deficient for reptile occurrences at the 1 km × 1 km resolution. Additionally, the spatial coverage of available occurrences varied at species and family levels, and the majority of occurrence records were strongly associated with publicly accessible human infrastructure. Furthermore, we found that sampled areas within KNP were not necessarily ecologically representative of KNP as a whole, suggesting that areas of unique environmental space remain to be sampled. Our findings highlight the need for substantially greater sampling effort for reptiles across KNP and emphasise the need to carefully consider the sampling biases within existing data should these be used for conservation management decision-making. Modelling species distributions could potentially serve as a short-term solution, but a concomitant increase in surveys across the park is needed.

Conservation implications: The sampling biases present within KNP reptile occurrence data inhibit the inference of fine-scale species distributions within and across the park, which limits the usage of these data towards meaningfully informing conservation management decisions as applicable to reptile species in KNP.


Keywords

conservation management; Kruger National Park; occurrence data; reptile fauna; sampling bias

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