Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) as a case study for locating cryptic and data-poor marine fishes for conservation

Publication Type: Journal Article

Year of Publication: 2017

Authors:  L. Aylesworth, T.-L. Loh, W. Rongrongmuang and A. C. J. Vincent

Journal: Animal Conservation

When seeking to conserve data-poor species, we need to decide how to allocate research effort, especially when threats are substantial and pressing. Our study provides guidance for sampling marine fishes that are particularly difficult to find – those species that are cryptic or rare and or where little information exists on local distribution (data-poor). We used our experience searching for seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) in Thailand to evaluate two search strategies for marine conservation: (1) determining relative abundance and (2) searching for presence/absence with detection probabilities. Our fieldwork indicated that using the presence/absence framework was more likely to lead to inferences that seahorses could be found in the site than when using the relative abundance framework. This realization would support a commonsense approach, where presence/absence with detection probabilities is centrally important to marine conservation planning for cryptic and or data-poor marine species.