Atlas analysis

To: <>
Subject: Atlas analysis
From: "Robert Read" <>
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 23:27:18 +0930
For what it is worth I will put in my opinion on this.  My comments are
based entirely on my experience of the Atlas in Central Australia, but may
apply to other similar remote and arid areas.

In the past I have asked Atlas personnel about Atlassing in remote areas and
been encouraged to do as many 2 ha surveys as possible.  I now regret
following this advice.  The object of an Atlas is simply to record the
presence or absence of species in grid squares.  The 2 ha searches have been
pushed by Environment Australia, who are funding the Atlas, but who have a
different agenda.
In this region 20 minute 2ha searches are a very inefficient way of finding
birds.  For many typical arid habitat types the average number of species
seen is around 3, and 0 species is common.  Quite frustating when several
species can be seen or heard outside the search area.  The result of
concentrating on surveys rather than finding species is that instead of
being an improvement on Atlas 1,coverage is worse than for Atlas 1.  Further
the variability of 2 ha surveys means an enormous number would be needed to
extract useful data.  After doing about 20 repeat searches of a 2 ha area
about 25 species were found, half of them being seen only once.  I find it
hard to believe that anyone is going to be able to extract much useful
information from 2 ha surveys in this region.  There simply is not the
manpower available to get effective coverage in this way.

At this stage the Atlas has only 6 months left to run.  My opinion is that
the best way to try to salvage the Atlas is to do 500 m searches scattered
over as wide an area as possible in the remaining time, covering as many
habitats as you can and not to waste time on 2 ha searches.

I repeat that my comments refer to arid areas, and should not be applied to
wetter areas with more abundant bird-life.

Robert Read
Alice Springs

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