Congruence of local ecological knowledge (LEK)-based methods and line-transect surveys in estimating wildlife abundance in tropical forests

Franciany Braga-Pereira, Thais Q. Morcatty, Hani R. El Bizri, Aline S. Tavares, Carla Mere-Roncal, Carlos González-Crespo, Carolina Bertsch, Claudia Ramos Rodriguez, Claudio Bardales-Alvites, Eduardo M. von Mühlen, Galicia Fernanda Bernárdez-Rodríguez, Fernanda Pozzan Paim, Jhancy Segura Tamayo, João Valsecchi, Jonas Gonçalves, Leon Torres-Oyarce, Lísley Pereira Lemos, Marina A. R. de Mattos Vieira, Mark Bowler, Michael P. GilmoreNatalia Carolina Angulo Perez, Rômulo Romeu da Nóbrega Alves, Carlos A. Peres, Pedro E. Pérez-Peña, Pedro Mayor

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Effective estimation of wildlife population abundance is an important component of population monitoring, and ultimately essential for the development of conservation actions. Diurnal line-transect surveys are one of the most applied methods for abundance estimations. Local ecological knowledge (LEK) is empirically acquired through the observation of ecological processes by local people. LEK-based methods have only been recognized as valid scientific methods for surveying fauna abundance in the last three decades. However, the agreement between both methods has not been extensively analysed. We compared concomitant abundance data for 91 wild species (mammals, birds and tortoises) from diurnal line transects (9,221 km of trails) and a LEK-based method (291 structured interviews) at 18 sites in Central and Western Amazonia. We used biological and socioecological factors to assess the agreements and divergences between abundance indices obtained from both methods. We found a significant agreement of population abundance indices for diurnal and game species. This relationship was also positive regardless of species sociality (solitary or social), body size and locomotion mode (terrestrial and arboreal); and of sampled forest type (upland and flooded forests). Conversely, we did not find significant abundance covariances for nocturnal and non-game species. Despite the general agreement between methods, line transects were not effective at surveying many species occurring in the area, with 40.2% and 39.8% of all species being rarely and never detected in at least one of the survey sites. On the other hand, these species were widely reported by local informants to occur at intermediate to high abundances. Although LEK-based methods have been long neglected by ecologists, our comparative study demonstrated their effectiveness for estimating vertebrate abundance of a wide diversity of taxa and forest environments. This can be used simultaneously with line-transect surveys to calibrate abundance estimates and record species that are rarely sighted during surveys on foot, but that are often observed by local people during their daily extractive activities. Thus, the combination of local and scientific knowledge is a potential tool to improve our knowledge of tropical forest species and foster the development of effective strategies to meet biodiversity conservation goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-756
Number of pages14
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number3
Early online date5 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Amazon
  • citizen science
  • ethnobiology
  • ethnozoology
  • subsistence hunting
  • traditional knowledge
  • vertebrates

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