[Coral-List] LIT, digital photo archive back-up, and global insight

Les Kaufman lesk at bu.edu
Mon Dec 29 13:21:27 EST 2008

Dear all,

Big second to Josh's advice, plus this.  We (MMAS) are finding the  
addition of photo transects (high-res digital over LIT track, HD vid  
probably just as good) to be invaluable in the analysis,  
interpretation, and post-hoc hypothesis testing involving reef  
monitoring as part of an experimental design.  If all you want is the  
basics- e.g. proportional benthic coverage and species composition-  
the field LIT data are fine.  However, if you or anybody who will use  
your data is interested in time series or erecting hypotheses about  
the processes that drive change over time, having pictures of the  
place can make all the difference in the world.

Book keeping for all these space-hogging digital photos can be a  
nightmare but I would wager it is worth the effort.  Our attentions  
as a community should be turning from documenting death to rethinking  
resurrection, and the meta-analysis of regeneration across all of the  
places that we are now doing reef monitoring could provide a Rosetta  
stone to understanding how to maximize and accelerate reef  
regeneration.  For the next several decades at least, maximizing  
regeneration is what will have to pass for coral reef conservation  
over most of the world.   It is also how we will know if local  
conservation efforts are delivering any measurable benefit.  We have  
a pretty good handle now on how reefs die (or at least shift away  
from hard coral dominance), we can play that tape in our sleep and do  
so regularly in our nightmares.  Much more complicated and important  
right now is how they return to being coral reefs, and for  
understanding that, the pictures are invaluable.  The lives and  
careers of coral reef scientists for the coming century will be  
mostly about cycles and processes of death and regeneration: up and  
down, up and down.  Can we arrange for there to be more ups than downs?

I propose that we create a global archive of comparable reef image  
time series.  It can be a virtual one, by virtue of us all just  
making what we have accessible on-line.  Somebody can even write a  
little spider that would be able to wrap and consolidate relevant  
image data across the web through a  query.  This may sound a bit  
scary in terms of data ownership and such, but these things can be  
overcome.  With such an archive it would be possible to observe  
changes on a global scale, and parse out local vs. global dynamics.   
It would be like a marine counterpart to the tropical forest network  
of 50-hectare plots, or NEON, the ever-nascent US network of  
ecological observatories.   Regional data center initiatives like  
those of  CARICOMP, GBRMPA, CORDIO, and others can help, along with  
GCRMN.   We should do it scratch but be ready for a push on UNEP,  
UNDP, (and in the US NASA, NSF, NOAA), and World Bank support.  What  
we are talking about is a ground-up arm of the proposed top-down  
remote sensing approach practiced by Dustan, Mumby and many others.

For what it is worth, we are starting on a tiny scale in our own  
project at Conservation International.  In addition to LIT and visual  
fish census data, in MMAS we are making digital image records of the  
fixed transects in our design (we also have random transects that are  
longer), from the four project nodes- Brazil (Abrolhos), Belize, TEP  
(Coiba and Galapagos) and Fiji, 4-6 sites (or more) in each node with  
several depths and replication within-site.  The methods are not  
identical across the nodes because the reefs and conditions are very  
varied, but they are comparable.   If for nothing else, we have  
already found this modicum of standardization, combined with having  
the digital image archives, to be invaluable.  We can look at the  
photos and it suggests ideas and hypotheses that would have been  
difficult to extract from LIT data alone.

Anyway if we could pull this off it would be a very useful addition  
to our current (limited) visualization and forecasting ability for  
the global ecological "weather" of coral reefs, for which we now are  
drawn together by the NOAA bleaching information network and GCMRN.   
The harder the data the better, though.

Even a room full of carefully trained, supervised, and vetted  
paraprofessionals (and students) running PointCount and selected  
measurements on this data archive could get us a lot of practical and  
useful information.

Many of us are doing stuff like this and let's face it- when it is  
just in our own areas, it can be pretty boring.  We certainly need  
this kind of work locally and regionally, to drive adaptive  
management.  Aggregated across the world, however, it could trigger  
awareness, insight, emotion, and action on a scale commensurate with  
the challenge of global change.


Les Kaufman
Professor of Biology
Associate Director
Boston University Marine Program
Senior PI
Marine Management Area Science
Conservation International

> Today's Topics:
>    1. Best practice for LIT surveys (Lindsay Sullivan)
>    2. Re: Best practice for LIT surveys (Feingold, Joshua)
> From: Lindsay Sullivan <lindssullivan at yahoo.co.uk>
> Dear Coral-listers,
> ?
> If anyone has experience of using the line intercept transect (LIT)  
> method to carry out benthic assemblage surveys I wonder if you  
> could help me.?
> I have been taught that in high surge conditions the fibreglass  
> tape must be secured to?coral colonies to prevent it moving around,  
> wound around massive colonies and through the fingers of branching  
> and digitate colonies for example,?however I have concerns that (a)  
> this is damaging to the coral and (b) the survey?is no longer  
> random or even haphazard, but that the results are selected by the  
> diver as he carefully tucks the tape around coral.
> Does anyone have similar opinions or experiences of this method and  
> can offer possible solutions? Despite the common usage of?LITs for  
> coral reef surveys I have been unable to find detailed instructions  
> of how to ensure the tape?remains secured?close the substrate and  
> in a straight line, so wonder if perhaps this is an accepted  
> weakness of the method?
> ?
> Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
> ?
> Best regards,
> Lindsay
> From: "Feingold, Joshua" <joshua at nova.edu>
> Hi Lindsay,
> The line-intercept method is utilized in the AGRRA protocols and  
> yields good
> results. You are correct that movement of the tape limits easy  
> interpretation
> of intercepted corals, especially when there is strong surge. You can
> minimize movement by putting good tension on the line, but that  
> requires
> strong supports (e.g. permanent stakes) on either end. When I  
> employ this
> method, I do not wrap the tape around corals or any other object,  
> preferring
> to observe the movement of the line over several surge-cycles and  
> "averaging"
> the position for data collection. I agree that wrapping the line or
> purposefully running it to minimize movement introduces bias and is  
> something
> to avoid. Another option is to use 1/16" braided nylon line instead  
> of a
> fiberglass tape. The nylon line is not affected as much as the  
> wider tape by
> surge, but is still subject to movement. This would also require  
> the use of
> an alternate measuring device to determine linear distance of the  
> coral under
> the non-marked line.
> The LIT is an effective technique, but does have its limitations.
> Cheers,
> Joshua Feingold
> Nova Southeastern University

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