Utility of biological sensor tags in animal conservation.
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Electronic tags (both biotelemetry and biologging platforms) have informed conservation and resource management policy and practice by providing vital information on the spatial ecology of animals and their environments. However, the extent of the contribution of biological sensors (within electronic tags) that measure an animal's state (e.g., heart rate, body temperature, and details of locomotion and energetics) is less clear. A literature review revealed that, despite a growing number of commercially available state sensor tags and enormous application potential for such devices in animal biology, there are relatively few examples of their application to conservation. Existing applications fell under 4 main themes: quantifying disturbance (e.g., ecotourism, vehicular and aircraft traffic), examining the effects of environmental change (e.g., climate change), understanding the consequences of habitat use and selection, and estimating energy expenditure. We also identified several other ways in which sensor tags could benefit conservation, such as determining the potential efficacy of management interventions. With increasing sensor diversity of commercially available platforms, less invasive attachment techniques, smaller device sizes, and more researchers embracing such technology, we suggest that biological sensor tags be considered a part of the necessary toolbox for conservation. This approach can measure (in real time) the state of free-ranging animals and thus provide managers with objective, timely, relevant, and accurate data to inform policy and decision making.
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