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Predicting herbivore faecal nitrogen using a multispecies near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy calibration

AuthorsVillamuelas, Miriam; Serrano, Emmanuel; Espunyes, Johan; Fernández, Néstor ; López-Olvera, Jorge R. ; Garel, Mathieu; Santos, Joao; Parra-Aguado, M. Ángeles; Ramanzin, Mauricio; Fernández-Aguilar, Xavier; Colom-Cadena, Andreu; Marco, Ignasi; Lavín, Santiago; Bartolomé, Jordi ; Albanell, Elena
Issue Date2017
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationPLoS ONE, 12(4): e0176635 (2017)
AbstractOptimal management of free-ranging herbivores requires the accurate assessment of an animal's nutritional status. For this purpose `near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy' (NIRS) is very useful, especially when nutritional assessment is done through faecal indicators such as faecal nitrogen (FN). In order to perform an NIRS calibration, the default protocol recommends starting by generating an initial equation based on at least 50±75 samples from the given species. Although this protocol optimises prediction accuracy, it limits the use of NIRS with rare or endangered species where sample sizes are often small. To overcome this limitation we tested a single NIRS equation (i.e., multispecies calibration) to predict FN in herbivores. Firstly, we used five herbivore species with highly contrasting digestive physiologies to build monospecies and multispecies calibrations, namely horse, sheep, Pyrenean chamois, red deer and European rabbit. Secondly, the equation accuracy was evaluated by two procedures using: (1) an external validation with samples from the same species, which were not used in the calibration process; and (2) samples from different ungulate species, specifically Alpine ibex, domestic goat, European mouflon, roe deer and cattle. The multispecies equation was highly accurate in terms of the coefficient of determination for calibration R2 = 0.98, standard error of validation SECV = 0.10, standard error of external validation SEP = 0.12, ratio of performance to deviation RPD = 5.3, and range error of prediction RER = 28.4. The accuracy of the multispecies equation to predict other herbivore species was also satisfactory (R2 > 0.86, SEP < 0.27, RPD > 2.6, and RER > 8.1). Lastly, the agreement between multi- and monospecies calibrations was also confirmed by the Bland-Altman method. In conclusion, our single multispecies equation can be used as a reliable, cost-effective, easy and powerful analytical method to assess FN in a wide range of herbivore species
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176635
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