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Under normal circumstances, with a previous decision of "major revisions," I would send this back to the reviewers for another round of review. In this case, I know that both my reviewers are travelling and do not have easy internet access. I'm afraid that if I send it out again it might be some considerable time before I get comments back.
Secondly, I had the chance to discuss the reviews and I shared their principal concerns about inferences about trends when data are missing.
Having now read your paper carefully and noted the very thorough point-by-point response to the earlier concerns, I have decided to accept this revision without further review. I think you've done an excellent job at addressing the statistical concerns. The paper as a whole makes a compelling case that this species is in serious trouble and that immediate actions are needed to conserve it.
My only request is an entirely personal one! Given how secretive this species is even when singing, is there any chance at all in seeing it in November? (That's the only time I'm going to be near Spain in the near future.)
# PeerJ Staff Note - this decision was reviewed and approved by Patricia Gandini, a PeerJ Section Editor covering this Section #
I agree with both the reviewers, who incidentally, raise much the same concerns. To resolve these issues will require major revisions.
I look forward to your revised manuscript
The writing style is professional and the grammar is correct with the exception of the incorrect and overuse of the word “besides” to start sentences.
The figures and tables are appropriate and clean, however I would suggest combining S3-S10 into a single table with an additional column for the Autonomous Region.
The authors have clearly established the need for an updated assessment of the Dupont’s lark at both the regional and national level. While a large number of population assessments have been used, the author’s don’t seem to use all of them and it’s not clear why not.
The extinction event information is very interesting and it’s good to include. That being said, there should be a sentence defining local extinction events in the methods and why you don’t simply assume it’s due to poor detection rather than true local extinction (i.e. it requires multiple years of no detection to be considered a local extinction).
The raw data is clean, but is clearly missing many years as noted by the authors. Given the missing data and the variety of sites, TRIM appears to be a reasonable software to use to analyze the data. That being said, I’m not sure I believe the results for Catalonia. There is a single population underwent an extinction and recolonization event, but Nti is smaller than Nt0, and yet the results indicate a positive growth trend? Despite being classified as an “uncertain” trend and the author’s note that overdispersion is a concern, this doesn’t make intuitive sense. Why isn’t there at least one change point in the middle to represent recolonization? Unfortunately, because I doubt one of these models, I now doubt the remainder.
The discussion covers much of the necessary topics but could be expanded some. For instance, demographic stochasticity is mentioned, but I don’t think is given the appropriate weight. Habitat loss may reduce population size through the reduction of resources, but in the absence of total patch removal, demographic stochasticity is likely the driver of local extinction of these small populations. Additionally, the authors discuss interannual variability but don’t have any mention of inter-site variability. Why do some Autonomous Regions see more decline than others? Is it solely due to rates of habitat loss? This is an important topic to discuss in light of the results and differential listings for the Dupont’s lark.
• The authors have clearly stated the need for an updated assessment of the Dupont’s lark and appear to have done the most comprehensive analysis to date. That being said, it is not clear why despite mentioning the number of population counts performed, they couldn’t use more data. This can be easily clarified with a single sentence in the methods.
• The larger concern is the use of a “black box software” for estimating population declines. While TRIM appears to be a valid and appropriate analytical software given the variety of sites and missing data, I’m not convinced the outputs make intuitive sense given the raw data. This is the problem with these types of software, one can simply input all of their data and a result is spit out and no one can be entirely sure where this number came from. My recommendation would be a secondary set of analyses using basic population viability analyses to compare to the TRIM results.
• Lastly, the Discussion could be expanded some more. In particular, expounding on potential site differences and what’s driving differences in vulnerability and population declines.
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