Exploring benthic habitat assessments on coral reefs: a comparison of direct field measurements versus remote sensing

Lutzenkirchen, Lucas L., Duce, Stephanie J., and Bellwood, David R. (2024) Exploring benthic habitat assessments on coral reefs: a comparison of direct field measurements versus remote sensing. Coral Reefs. (In Press)

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Coral reefs are spatially variable ecosystems that form biogenic structures ranging in size from 10 to 1000s of meters. Their changes in response to anthropogenic stress are occurring across increasingly broad scales, yet our ability to detect, understand and respond to these changes at relevant scales is limited. Traditional in-water observation-based coral reef ecology and remote sensing-based methods both offer valuable insights into benthic change, but their relative scalability and use to-date must be understood to inform optimal future research approaches. We conducted a systematic literature review comparing the approaches used to quantify benthic habitat, through traditional in-water ecological studies and remote sensing studies, with respect to: (a) their geographic distribution, (b) reef zone selection, and c) their focal questions. Among the 199 studies reviewed, traditional ecological studies primarily concentrated on community composition (89%), using high-detail direct measurements, especially from the reef slope (80%). By contrast, remote sensing studies provided spatially explicit datasets at coarser spatial and thematic resolutions, with a predominant focus on benthic mapping (72%) across entire reef systems. Only 3% of studies integrated both approaches, combining comprehensive in-situ observations with broadscale remote sensing. As anthropogenic stressors continue to increase in scale, bridging these scientific disciplines offers a promising way to upscale observations to entire reef-scape scales. We identify steps to harness the strengths of both fields and integrate multiple tools at various levels of resolution and scale. Such bridging approaches offer a way forward in understanding and managing coral reef functioning in the Anthropocene.

Item ID: 82041
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: Coral reef ecology, Coral reefs, Ecological monitoring, Remote sensing, Review
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2024. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Funders: Australian Research Council
Projects and Grants: FL1901000062
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2024 00:33
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 60%
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3704 Geoinformatics > 370499 Geoinformatics not elsewhere classified @ 40%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 100%
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