Evaluation of visual encounter surveys as a method for the rapid assessment of fish presence and relative density in high mountain lakes

Tiberti, Rocco; Buchaca, Teresa; Cruset, Eloi; Iacobelli, Laura; Maini, Melissa; Osorio, Víctor; Puig, Mariàngels; Pou-Rovira, Quim; Sabas, Ibor; Ventura, Marc. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems : doi:10.1002/aqc.3868 (2022)  DIGITAL CSIC  


1. Introduced fish are a widespread ecological threat in originally fishless high mountain lakes. However, basic distribution data are largely missing for most high mountain regions.

2. Using time-consuming standard methods (e.g. Nordic standard fishing nets) to assess fish distribution and relative densities at a relevant spatial scale can be impracticable, because of the large number of high mountain lakes. To overcome this problem, alternative rapid monitoring methods would be helpful.

3. Visual encounter survey (VES) is a candidate method that enables observing fish from the shoreline. It takes only minutes to implement and is already widely used for amphibian monitoring in high mountain lakes and ponds. VES was evaluated as a method for monitoring introduced salmonids and cyprinids (the most widespread fish families) in 52 high mountain lakes.

4. The probability of detecting both families by VES rapidly approaches 100% as the relative densities of fish increase, and false absences are restricted to populations living at low relative densities. VES also provides simple indications about fish relative densities, distinguishing between high-density and low-density populations.

5. As VES usually does not enable fish species identifications, we propose VES as a useful method to describe large fish distribution inventories, not needing high taxonomic detail, but necessary for planning large-scale conservation measures.