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The impact of RHDV-K5 on rabbit populations in Australia: an evaluation of citizen science surveys to monitor rabbit abundance

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Cox, T., Ramsey, D., Sawyers, E., Campbell, S., Matthews, J. and Elsworth, P. (2019) The impact of RHDV-K5 on rabbit populations in Australia: an evaluation of citizen science surveys to monitor rabbit abundance. Scientific Reports, 9 .


Article Link: https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-51847-w

Article URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-51847-w


The increasing popularity of citizen science in ecological research has created opportunities for data collection from large teams of observers that are widely dispersed. We established a citizen science program to complement the release of a new variant of the rabbit biological control agent, rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), known colloquially as K5, across Australia. We evaluated the impact of K5 on the national rabbit population and compared citizen science and professionally-collected spotlight count data. Of the citizen science sites (n = 219), 93% indicated a decrease in rabbit abundance following the release of K5. The overall finite monthly growth rate in rabbit abundance was estimated as 0.66 (95%CI, 0.26, 1.03), averaging a monthly reduction of 34% at the citizen science sites one month after the release. No such declines were observed at the professionally monitored sites (n = 22). The citizen science data submissions may have been unconsciously biased or the number of professional sites may have been insufficient to detect a change. Citizen science participation also declined by 56% over the post-release period. Future programs should ensure the use of blinded trials to check for unconscious bias and consider how incentives and/or the good will of the participants can be maintained throughout the program.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Biosecurity Queensland
Additional Information:Open access
Subjects:Science > Invasive Species > Animals
Science > Invasive Species > Animals > Animal control and ecology
Science > Invasive Species > Animals > Impact assessment
Animal culture > Small animal culture
Live Archive:12 Nov 2019 03:31
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:45

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