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Open AccessArticle

Linking Coral Reef Remote Sensing and Field Ecology: It’s a Matter of Scale

by 1,*,† and 2,3,†
1
Department of Marine Science, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, P.O. Box 9000, Mayaguez, PR 00681, USA
2
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, P.O. Box 9000, Mayaguez, PR 00681, USA
3
HySpeed Computing, Miami Florida P.O. Box 431824, Miami, FL 33243, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Academic Editor: Tony Clare
J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2015, 3(1), 1-20; https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse3010001
Received: 21 October 2014 / Accepted: 9 December 2014 / Published: 26 December 2014
Remote sensing shows potential for assessing biodiversity of coral reefs. Important steps in achieving this objective are better understanding the spectral variability of various reef components and correlating these spectral characteristics with field-based ecological assessments. Here we analyze >9400 coral reef field spectra from southwestern Puerto Rico to evaluate how spectral variability and, more specifically, spectral similarity between species influences estimates of biodiversity. Traditional field methods for estimating reef biodiversity using photoquadrats are also included to add ecological context to the spectral analysis. Results show that while many species can be distinguished using in situ field spectra, the addition of the overlying water column significantly reduces the ability to differentiate species, and even groups of species. This indicates that the ability to evaluate biodiversity with remote sensing decreases with increasing water depth. Due to the inherent spectral similarity amongst many species, including taxonomically dissimilar species, remote sensing underestimates biodiversity and represents the lower limit of actual species diversity. The overall implication is that coral reef ecologists using remote sensing need to consider the spatial and spectral context of the imagery, and remote sensing scientists analyzing biodiversity need to define confidence limits as a function of both water depth and the scale of information derived, e.g., species, groups of species, or community level. View Full-Text
Keywords: coral reefs; remote sensing; field spectra; scale; ecology; biodiversity; conservation coral reefs; remote sensing; field spectra; scale; ecology; biodiversity; conservation
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MDPI and ACS Style

Lucas, M.Q.; Goodman, J. Linking Coral Reef Remote Sensing and Field Ecology: It’s a Matter of Scale. J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2015, 3, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse3010001

AMA Style

Lucas MQ, Goodman J. Linking Coral Reef Remote Sensing and Field Ecology: It’s a Matter of Scale. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering. 2015; 3(1):1-20. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse3010001

Chicago/Turabian Style

Lucas, Matthew Q.; Goodman, James. 2015. "Linking Coral Reef Remote Sensing and Field Ecology: It’s a Matter of Scale" J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 3, no. 1: 1-20. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse3010001

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