Image_1_Next-Generation Camera Trapping: Systematic Review of Historic Trends Suggests Keys to Expanded Research Applications in Ecology and Conservation.TIFF
Camera trapping is an effective non-invasive method for collecting data on wildlife species to address questions of ecological and conservation interest. We reviewed 2,167 camera trap (CT) articles from 1994 to 2020. Through the lens of technological diffusion, we assessed trends in: (1) CT adoption measured by published research output, (2) topic, taxonomic, and geographic diversification and composition of CT applications, and (3) sampling effort, spatial extent, and temporal duration of CT studies. Annual publications of CT articles have grown 81-fold since 1994, increasing at a rate of 1.26 (SE = 0.068) per year since 2005, but with decelerating growth since 2017. Topic, taxonomic, and geographic richness of CT studies increased to encompass 100% of topics, 59.4% of ecoregions, and 6.4% of terrestrial vertebrates. However, declines in per article rates of accretion and plateaus in Shannon's H for topics and major taxa studied suggest upper limits to further diversification of CT research as currently practiced. Notable compositional changes of topics included a decrease in capture-recapture, recent decrease in spatial-capture-recapture, and increases in occupancy, interspecific interactions, and automated image classification. Mammals were the dominant taxon studied; within mammalian orders carnivores exhibited a unimodal peak whereas primates, rodents and lagomorphs steadily increased. Among biogeographic realms we observed decreases in Oceania and Nearctic, increases in Afrotropic and Palearctic, and unimodal peaks for Indomalayan and Neotropic. Camera days, temporal extent, and area sampled increased, with much greater rates for the 0.90 quantile of CT studies compared to the median. Next-generation CT studies are poised to expand knowledge valuable to wildlife ecology and conservation by posing previously infeasible questions at unprecedented spatiotemporal scales, on a greater array of species, and in a wider variety of environments. Converting potential into broad-based application will require transferable models of automated image classification, and data sharing among users across multiple platforms in a coordinated manner. Further taxonomic diversification likely will require technological modifications that permit more efficient sampling of smaller species and adoption of recent improvements in modeling of unmarked populations. Environmental diversification can benefit from engineering solutions that expand ease of CT sampling in traditionally challenging sites.