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Monitoring mosaic biotopes in a marine conservation zone by autonomous underwater vehicle

Monitoring mosaic biotopes in a marine conservation zone by autonomous underwater vehicle
Monitoring mosaic biotopes in a marine conservation zone by autonomous underwater vehicle
The extent of marine protected areas (MPAs) has increased dramatically in the last decade, and poses a major logistic challenge for conservation practitioners in terms of spatial extent and the multiplicity of habitats and biotopes that now require assessment. Here we demonstrate a single field method, photographic assessment by autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that enables the consistent description of multiple habitats, in our case including mosaics of rock and sediment. We describe a case study in the Greater Haig Fras marine conservation zone (Celtic Sea, NE Atlantic) where we distinguished seven biotopes, detected statistically significant variations in standing stocks, species density, species diversity, and faunal composition, and identified significant indicator species for each habitat. Our results demonstrate that AUV-based photography can produce robust data for ecological research and practical marine conservation. We note that standardizing to a minimum number of individuals per sampling unit, rather than to a fixed seafloor area, may be a valuable means of defining an ecologically appropriate sampling unit. Although representing a change in ‘standard practise’, we suggest that other users consider the potential benefits of this approach in their own conservation studies. The approach is broadly applicable in the marine environment, and has already been successfully implemented in deep-sea conservation and impact studies. It is clear that without a cost-effective methodology, applicable across habitats, it will be difficult to progress a coherent classification of biotopes, or to routinely assess their conservation status, in the rapidly expanding global extent of MPAs.
0888-8892
Benoist, Noelie
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Morris, Kirsty J.
4640fbf5-0c92-476c-a35f-281ccf41d6b0
Bett, Brian
61342990-13be-45ae-9f5c-9540114335d9
Durden, Jennifer
d7101246-b76b-44bc-8956-8ca4ae62ae1f
Huvenne, Veerle
f22be3e2-708c-491b-b985-a438470fa053
Le Bas, Tim P.
4128286d-8730-4ee8-ba45-2d55b3962701
Wynn, Russell B.
e8a0fe78-6e5a-45d2-8e38-97d37bf2e718
Ware, Suzanne J.
fc4a8989-1534-4a1c-814b-4f62fb4f27fe
Ruhl, Henry
177608ef-7793-4911-86cf-cd9960ff22b6
Benoist, Noelie
9a06e349-0049-49dc-a616-97c43d222a2e
Morris, Kirsty J.
4640fbf5-0c92-476c-a35f-281ccf41d6b0
Bett, Brian
61342990-13be-45ae-9f5c-9540114335d9
Durden, Jennifer
d7101246-b76b-44bc-8956-8ca4ae62ae1f
Huvenne, Veerle
f22be3e2-708c-491b-b985-a438470fa053
Le Bas, Tim P.
4128286d-8730-4ee8-ba45-2d55b3962701
Wynn, Russell B.
e8a0fe78-6e5a-45d2-8e38-97d37bf2e718
Ware, Suzanne J.
fc4a8989-1534-4a1c-814b-4f62fb4f27fe
Ruhl, Henry
177608ef-7793-4911-86cf-cd9960ff22b6

Benoist, Noelie, Morris, Kirsty J., Bett, Brian, Durden, Jennifer, Huvenne, Veerle, Le Bas, Tim P., Wynn, Russell B., Ware, Suzanne J. and Ruhl, Henry (2019) Monitoring mosaic biotopes in a marine conservation zone by autonomous underwater vehicle. Conservation Biology. (doi:10.1111/cobi.13312).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The extent of marine protected areas (MPAs) has increased dramatically in the last decade, and poses a major logistic challenge for conservation practitioners in terms of spatial extent and the multiplicity of habitats and biotopes that now require assessment. Here we demonstrate a single field method, photographic assessment by autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that enables the consistent description of multiple habitats, in our case including mosaics of rock and sediment. We describe a case study in the Greater Haig Fras marine conservation zone (Celtic Sea, NE Atlantic) where we distinguished seven biotopes, detected statistically significant variations in standing stocks, species density, species diversity, and faunal composition, and identified significant indicator species for each habitat. Our results demonstrate that AUV-based photography can produce robust data for ecological research and practical marine conservation. We note that standardizing to a minimum number of individuals per sampling unit, rather than to a fixed seafloor area, may be a valuable means of defining an ecologically appropriate sampling unit. Although representing a change in ‘standard practise’, we suggest that other users consider the potential benefits of this approach in their own conservation studies. The approach is broadly applicable in the marine environment, and has already been successfully implemented in deep-sea conservation and impact studies. It is clear that without a cost-effective methodology, applicable across habitats, it will be difficult to progress a coherent classification of biotopes, or to routinely assess their conservation status, in the rapidly expanding global extent of MPAs.

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Benoist_Seabed_AUV_monitoring - Accepted Manuscript
Restricted to Repository staff only until 11 March 2020.
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Benoist_Seabed_AUV_monitoring_SI
Restricted to Repository staff only until 11 March 2020.
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 4 March 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 11 March 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 429159
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/429159
ISSN: 0888-8892
PURE UUID: 0670135d-7d89-4d06-802e-de993b7f5929
ORCID for Noelie Benoist: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-1978-3538

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Date deposited: 22 Mar 2019 17:30
Last modified: 23 Mar 2019 01:27

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Contributors

Author: Noelie Benoist ORCID iD
Author: Kirsty J. Morris
Author: Brian Bett
Author: Jennifer Durden
Author: Veerle Huvenne
Author: Tim P. Le Bas
Author: Russell B. Wynn
Author: Suzanne J. Ware
Author: Henry Ruhl

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