Reference : Evaluation of observer effect in botanical surveys of grasslands
Scientific journals : Article
Life sciences : Environmental sciences & ecology
Evaluation of observer effect in botanical surveys of grasslands
[en] Evaluation de l'effet obervateur dans les relevés de végétation des prairies.
Couvreur, Jean-Marc [SPW/DGARNE/DEMNA > > > >]
Fievet, Vincent [SPW/DGARNE/DEMNA > > > >]
Smits, Quentin [SPW/DGARNE/DEMNA > > > >]
Dufrêne, Marc mailto [Université de Liège > Ingénierie des biosystèmes (Biose) > Biodiversité et Paysage >]
Biotechnologie, Agronomie, Société et Environnement
Presses Agronomiques de Gembloux
Yes (verified by ORBi)
[en] Description of the subject. A field study has been conducted on 24 grasslands with five different botanical experts in order to assess inter-observer bias when making botanical surveys as well as the possible consequences in terms of descripting a semi-natural habitat.
Objectives. Fieldwork has been conducted to understand the most important factors of variability affecting botanical surveys conducted by several observers. These results were used to suggest practical solutions to enhance the quality of such surveys.
Method. Five observers performed a complete botanical survey of 24 grassland plots in the Famenne (Wallonia, Belgium) in June 2009. All surveys were statistically analyzed in order to detect and quantify the sources of variability between observers. The main parameters compared are the habitat diagnosis made on the field by the experts, the rate of detection of the characteristic species as well as their coverage in each plot.
Results. Regarding habitat identification, the biggest differences between observers are seen in plots where the composition is intermediate between a habitat in good and in bad status. Overall, there was a slight tendency to undervalue the quality of the habitat. The analysis revealed that the primary cause of variability between observers is the fact that the experts did not always strictly follow the criteria for habitat identification. As regards the comparison between observers, several sources of variability were identified. The main ones are the variability of the estimated coverage of some plants, the variability of the detection rate of characteristic species, as well as the variability of the prospecting effort that can be sub-optimal in each plot.
Conclusions. Some of the sources of variability that have been pointed out can be resolved easily, other have to be taken in consideration when comparing the results of surveys in the future. The solutions proposed to reduce the variability between observers are to encourage better self-control of the parameters to be taken into account at each step of the work, the organization of targeted training courses and more standardized prospecting efforts.
Keywords. Grassland, detection rate, cover rate, observer effect, bias, prospection, monitoring, habitat, identification.

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