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Comparative analysis of time-based and quadrat sampling in seasonal population dynamics of intermediate hosts of human schistosomes


Perez-Saez, Francisco Javier; Mande, Theophile; Zongo, Dramane; Rinaldo, Andrea (2019), Comparative analysis of time-based and quadrat sampling in seasonal population dynamics of intermediate hosts of human schistosomes, Dryad, Dataset,


Despite their importance for designing and evaluating schistosomiasis control trials, little attention in the literature has been dedicated to sampling protocols for the parasite's snail intermediate hosts since their first development. We propose a comparative analysis of time-based and quadrat sampling protocols to quantify the seasonal variations in the abundance of these aquatic snail species of medical importance.

Methodology/Principal Findings
Snail populations were monitored during 42 consecutive months in three types of habitats (ephemeral pond, ephemeral river and permanent stream) in two sites covering different climatic zones in Burkina Faso. We employed both a widely used time-based protocol of 30min of systematic collection at a weekly interval, and a quadrat protocol of 8 replicates per sample at a monthly interval. The correspondence between the two protocols was evaluated using an ensemble of statistical models including linear and saturating-type functional forms as well as allowing for count zero-inflation. The quadrat protocol yielded on average a relative standard error of 40\%, for a mean snail density of 16.7 snails/m2 and index of dispersion of 1.51. Both protocols yielded similar seasonal patterns in snail abundance, confirming the asynchrony between permanent and ephemeral habitats with respect to the country's seasonal rainfall patterns. Formal model comparison of the link between time vs. quadrat counts showed strong support of saturation for the latter and measurement zero-inflation, providing important evidence for the presence of density feedbacks in the snail's population dynamics, as well as for spatial clustering.

In addition to the agreement with the time-based method, quadrat sampling provided insight into snail population dynamics and comparable density estimates across sites. The re-evaluation of these  "traditional" sampling protocols, as well as the correspondence between their outputs, is of practical importance for the design and evaluation of schistosomiasis control trials.