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Description of a Remote Still Photography System for Collection of Benthic Photo-Quadrats

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Quantitative sampling of benthic communities is central to a wide range of ecological research, from understanding spatial distribution and ecology to impact studies. With the need to sample deep as well as shallow regions, limited sampling capabilities of diver-based methods and the expanding footprint of human activity, there is a need for an effective system capable of classifying benthic assemblages and able to monitor potential anthropogenic impacts. Here we describe a remote system capable of collecting benthic photo-quadrats to depths of 100 m. A procedure for the classification of these images into 64 abiotic and biotic categories is also described. During a 64-day sampling program that included sampling at seven locations along 1,200 km of coastline that resulted in the collection of over 9,000 images, only one day of sampling was lost due to equipment malfunction, with 99.5% of points able to be classified to the taxonomic resolution required, demonstrating the reliability and accuracy of this system. Furthermore, the incorporation of differential GPS and ultra-short baseline positioning system allowed collected images to be geo-referenced to within 0.5 m. Such precision allows the system to be used in conjunction with hydroacoustic habitat mapping techniques and potentially for repeated monitoring of areas with a small spatial extent. Development of this system provides a cost-effective means of quantifying benthic assemblages over broad scales.
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Keywords: Benthic community composition; High-resolution imagery; Impact studies; Marine habitat mapping; Remote sampling

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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