Terai Arc Landscape, Nepal
Great Sea Reef, Fiji
The Great Sea Reef (GSR) in Fiji was selected as the field site for the tropical coral reef biome where we will be working closely with our partners WWF Pacific (Fiji Programme), WWF-US, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Great Sea Reef is a marine biodiversity hotspot, a 50 reefs priority site, and is an important source of protein and marine resources of local people. By 2030, global commitments were made to ‘increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States… from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries…’ through Sustainable Development Goal 14.
At the GSR, we hope to develop a long-term reef monitoring programme to ensure the conservation of reef communities and the sustainable use of marine resources. Specifically, we seek to evaluate changes in reef community responses in different levels of fishing at multiple sites. To do so, we will use recognised reef survey techniques (e.g. structure from motion photogrammetry, high resolution video transects) and novel acoustic sensors (which can also measure anthropogenic activity) at each site.
We will monitor three aspects of the reef system: Macrofauna, benthic and sessile organisms and environmental features. We have chosen methods that maximise replicability by allowing us to verify data post-dive. At each site, we will conduct replicate survey transects (at 5-30m depth), which will be located to enable comparison of reef communities among sites along the fishing pressure gradient (sites from no fishing to high levels of fishing).
To survey benthic communities, we will record high resolution video transects of the benthos, and from these, calculate cover of hard coral, sort coral, macroalgae, sponges and sand. In conjunction with the video transects, the 3D environment will be captured using structure from motion photogrammetry. Images are taken with a high definition underwater digital camera to collect high definition overlapping images of each transect. Data are processed into a digital surface model, which can then be analysed for a range of metrics (coral cover, rugosity, complexity), which in turn can be linked to climate change and local management.
In addition, to survey the fish communities, video transects will be conducted at each site using a diver-operated stereo-video system. The stereo-video system allows fish communities to be recorded quickly and for fish biomass to be estimated more accurately. Finally, we will deploy underwater acoustic sensors to better understand the soundscapes at each site. This new method has the potential to serve as a complementary biodiversity monitoring tool in ecological studies.