Low cost open-source recorders and ready-to-use machine learning approaches provide effective monitoring of threatened species
MetadataShow full item record
Passive acoustic monitoring is a powerful tool for monitoring vocally active taxa. Automated signal recognition software reduces the expert time needed for recording analyses and allows researchers and managers to manage large acoustic datasets. The application of state-of-the-art techniques for automated identification, such as Convolutional Neural Networks, may be challenging for ecologists and managers without informatics or engineering expertise. Here, we evaluated the use of AudioMoth — a low-cost and open-source sound recorder — to monitor a threatened and patchily distributed species, the Eurasian bittern (Botaurus stellaris). Passive acoustic monitoring was carried out across 17 potential wetlands in north Spain. We also assessed the performance of BirdNET — an automated and freely available classifier able to identify over 3000 bird species — and Kaleidoscope Pro — a user-friendly recognition software — to detect the vocalizations and the presence of the target species. The percentage of presences and vocalizations of the Eurasian bittern automatically detected by BirdNET and Kaleidoscope Pro software was compared to manual annotations of 205 recordings. The species was effectively recorded up to distances of 801–900 m, with at least 50% of the vocalizations uttered within that distance being manually detected; this distance was reduced to 601–700 m when considering the analyses carried out using Kaleidoscope Pro. BirdNET detected the species in 59 of the 63 (93.7%) recordings with known presence of the species, while Kaleidoscope detected the bittern in 62 recordings (98.4%). At the vocalization level, BirdNet and Kaleidoscope Pro were able to detect between 76 and 78%, respectively, of the vocalizations detected by a human observer. Our study highlights the ability of AudioMoth for detecting the bittern at large distances, which increases the potential of that technique for monitoring the species at large spatial scales. According to our results, a single AudioMoth could be useful for monitoring the species’ presence in wetlands of up to 150 ha. Our study proves the utility of passive acoustic monitoring, coupled with BirdNET or Kaleidoscope Pro, as an accurate, repeatable, and cost-efficient method for monitoring the Eurasian bittern at large spatial and temporal scales. Nonetheless, further research should evaluate the performance of BirdNET on a larger number of species, and under different recording conditions (e.g., more closed habitats), to improve our knowledge about BirdNET’s ability to perform bird monitoring. Future studies should also aim to develop an adequate protocol to perform effective passive acoustic monitoring of the Eurasian bittern.
Is part ofEcological Informatics, 2022, vol. 72, p. 101910
European research projects
The following license files are associated with this item: