New Study Compares Coral Reef Monitoring Data Collected In-Water and 3D Imaging Data
Coral reef monitoring helps researchers and managers understand the health and status of ecosystems to make science-based conservation decisions. As threats to coral reefs-ocean warming, ocean acidification, fishing pressure, and local impacts like pollution-increase in severity and frequency, scientists are looking for ways to increase monitoring scale and efficiency. Traditionally, coral monitoring is completed using in-water surveys, where diver teams collect data underwater in real-time. While this method is tried-and-true, it is hard to scale-up because divers are limited by the amount of time they can safely stay underwater. Scientists are now exploring the use of 3D technology such as photogrammetry, also called Structure-from-Motion, to collect imagery that can be analyzed later and significantly reduce dive time underwater. Collecting 3D imagery also has the added benefit of creating a permanent record of a reef site to look at in the future. While Structure-from-Motion imagery can potentially save time in the water, it involves much more time to extract data. The big question is whether data collected in the water in real-time is comparable to data extracted from 3D imagery for the same reef area.
In a new study, National Coral Reef Monitoring Program scientists at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center led by Dr. Courtney Couch compared data from in-water coral surveys to data generated from Structure-from-Motion imagery for the first time to test the differences between the methods for the same reef areas. Couch and her team found that the majority of the tested metrics did not vary between methods. However, there were some exceptions for metrics including coral partial mortality, coral bleaching prevalence, and the juvenile density of a specific coral genera. Overall, this study suggests that Structure-from-Motion imagery may revolutionize the way we monitor coral reefs in the future.
Appearing as solitary forms in the fossil record more than 400 million years ago, corals are extremely ancient animals that evolved into modern reef-building forms over the last 25 million years. Continue Reading →
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The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) is a partnership between the NOAA Line Offices that work on coral reef issues: the National Ocean Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service. The CRCP brings together expertise from across NOAA for a multidisciplinary approach to managing and understanding coral reef ecosystems.
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