A review of detection range testing in aquatic passive acoustic telemetry studies

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries





First Page



Acoustic telemetry, Animal movement, Detection range, Passive telemetry, Range test, Ultrasonic telemetry

Last Page



Passive acoustic telemetry provides an important tool to study the spatial ecology and behaviour of organisms in marine and freshwater systems, but understanding the detection range of acoustic receivers is critical for interpreting acoustic data and establishing receiver spacing to maximize study efficiency. This study presents a comprehensive review of how acoustic detection range has been considered and assessed to date, summarizes important variables to monitor when determining the detection range of a receiver array, and provides recommendations to account for detection range during experimental design, analysis and data interpretation. A total of 378 passive acoustic telemetry studies (1986-2012) were scored against a set of pre-defined criteria to provide a standardized assessment of how well detection range was accounted for, from a maximum possible score of 45. Scores ranged from 0 to 39 (11.1 ± 0.4; mean ± 1 SE). Over the past decade mean scores have been consistently between 6.7 and 12.9 which indicates that detection range has not been adequately considered in most contemporary acoustic telemetry studies. Given the highly variable nature of detection range over space and time, it is necessary to create a culture of detection range testing among the scientific community. For robust telemetry studies it is recommended that consideration of detection range should be given a greater focus within study design, execution and data analysis. To aid array design in new systems, short-term detection range tests should be conducted in the most representative area of the study system prior to deployment. As well, fixed distance sentinel tags should ideally be deployed at a representative receiver site within the array to provide a continuous assessment of detection range and influential environmental parameters should be monitored to facilitate modeling of detection range variability over time. When warranted, data analysis should incorporate modeled variation in detection ranges. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.