Regional-scale benthic monitoring for ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)
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Monitoring marine habitats and biodiversity is critical for understanding ecological processes, conserving natural resources, and achieving ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM). Here, we describe the application of autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) technologyto conduct ongoing monitoring of benthic habitats at two key locations in Western Australia. Benthic assemblages on rocky reefs were sampled with an AUV, which captured .200 000 geo-referenced images. Surveys were designed to obtain 100% coverage of25 × 25 m patches of benthic habitat. In 2010, multiple patches were surveyed at 15–40-m depths at three reference sites at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands and at six reference sites at Rottnest Island. The following year, repeat surveys of the same geo-referenced patches were conducted. Benthic assemblages at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands were varied in that one reference site was dominated by hard corals, whereas the other two were macroalgae dominated. Conversely, assemblages at Rottnest Island were dominated by thekelp Ecklonia radiata. The AUV resurveyed each patch with high precision and demonstrated adequate power to detect change. Repeated observations at the reference sites will track natural variability in benthic habitat structure, which in turn will facilitate the detection of ecological change and ultimately feed back into EBFM processes.
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