Evaluating receiver contributions to acoustic positional telemetry : a case study on Atlantic cod around wind turbines in the North Sea

Knaap, Inge van der; Slabbekoorn, Hans; Winter, Hendrik V.; Moens, Tom; Reubens, Jan


Background: The effect of individual acoustic receiver contributions to animal positioning is a crucial aspect for the correct interpretation of acoustic positional telemetry (APT). Here, we evaluated the contribution of each receiver within two APT designs to the number of tag signals detected and the position accuracy of free-ranging Atlantic cod, through data exclusion of single receivers from the analysis. The two APTs were deployed around offshore (ca 50 km) wind turbines at which 27 individual cod were tagged. Results: We found that the exclusion of data from an APT receiver that was positioned within the movement area of the individual fish reduced the number of tag signals detected and the position accuracy of the set-up the most. Excluding the data from a single receiver caused a maximum of 34% positions lost per fish and a maximum increase in core area of 97.8%. Single-receiver data exclusion also caused a potentially large bias in the reconstruction of swimming tracks. By contrast, exclusion of a receiver that was deployed within 50 m from a turbine actually improved fish position accuracy, probably because the turbine can cause signal interference as a reflective barrier. Conclusions: We recommend that an exploratory small-scale study like the one presented here be conducted before embarking on a larger-scale APT study. By excluding the data of single receivers from the positioning analysis, we were able to explore the suitability of a receiver set-up for the movement patterns of our target species. Furthermore, when a receiver is lost from an APT during deployment, the data should be treated with care as our results show that changes in triangulation outcome can lead to considerable differences in swimming tracks and home range estimates.