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Quadrat Sampling in Population Ecology

Background
Ecology is often referred to as the study of distribution and
abundance. Information on the abundance of an organism
is fundamental to most questions in ecology. However, we
can rarely do a complete census of the organisms in the
area of interest because if limitation to time or research
funds. Therefore, we usually have to estimate the
abundance of organisms by sampling them or counting a
subset of the population of interest. We would like our
method for sampling the population to produce a good
estimate. A good estimate should maximize both precision
and accuracy. Accuracy refers to how close to the true
mean our estimate is.
Quadrat sampling is based on the measurement of
replicated sample units referred to as quadrats or plots.
This method is appropriate for estimating the abundance
of plants and other organisms that are sufficiently
sedentary that we can usually sample plots faster than
individuals move between plots. This approach allows
estimation of absolute density (number of individuals per
unit area within the study site). Our challenge is to identify
sampling strategies that will provide satisfactory precision
with minimum sample effort.

Factors that affect the precision are:
1) Measurement error. In real world, it is important to
count organisms
carefully and lay
out plots accurately for good estimates of density.
2) Total area sampled. In general, the more area sampled,
the more precise the estimate will be, but at the expense
of additional sampling effort.
3) Dispersion of the population. Whether the population
tends to be
aggregated, evenly spaced, or randomly
dispersed can affect the precision.

The size and shape of plots can affect sampling precision.4) Size and shape of quadrats. . Often. the optimal plot size and shape will depend on the dispersion pattern of the population. We will explore the role of some of these factors in onfluecing estimates of absolute density.