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See detailUnderwater Imagery, a Measuring Tool to Extend the Spatio-Temporal Understanding of Benthic Organisms Dynamics: Case Study of Codium elisabethae in the Azores.
Sirjacobs, Damien ULg; Tempera, Fernando; Cardigos, Frederico et al

Poster (2008, October)

Benthic habitat mapping studies have been increasingly exploiting the use of underwater images to collect information on substrate nature and biological coverage. Concurrently, research has been ongoing ... [more ▼]

Benthic habitat mapping studies have been increasingly exploiting the use of underwater images to collect information on substrate nature and biological coverage. Concurrently, research has been ongoing to develop methods that use the imagery collected to conduct regular quantitative monitoring studies of biological resources distributed over large areas. This study provides the first multi-annual monitoring information on the dynamics of a benthic macroalgae population derived from underwater imagery collected by scuba divers in the Monte da Guia Site of Community Importance /Natura 2000 network (Faial isl. Azores, NE Atlantic). The green alga Codium elisabethae - a long-living green alga that represents a potential good indicator of coastal environmental change - was chosen for the study. The analyses focus on using the underwater imagery to quantify seasonal fluctuations of density, percentage cover, biomass, growth rate and primary production of the species. Two study sites were investigated: one was located in a sheltered no-go reserve exhibiting a dense C. elisabethae population, and the other in a location experiencing more exposed conditions and holding a sparser population. Between August 2003 and November 2005, fifteen (15) photo coverages were collected by scuba-divers. Subsequent processing consisted of producing image mosaics and using automated and interactive change detection methods that recognized, measured and counted individuals present in photos of fixed quadrats and yielded dynamical parameters such as population structures, growth, recruitment, and mortality. Chi-square tests of image-derived estimates and in situ measurements confirmed the validity of a centimeter precision estimation of population structure for individuals above 4 cm diameter. Important variability of population structure and density were observed at small spatial scales. Population density showed a sharp reduction in autumn 2003 and did not show a full recovery in spring and summer 2004. During the following year, population of the protected site maintained density and biomass, while at the exposed site population density dropped. The production of information based on observations of thousands of individuals is mandatory in biological population statistics. The presented imagery approach made it possible, avoiding the need to collect all the measurements and quantitative information during time-constrained SCUBA diving operations. [less ▲]

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