Shaping biodiversity of deeper reef systems

The role of structural complexity in shaping biodiversity of deeper reef systems

Reef structural complexity is a feature of coral reef ecosystems known to contribute to the remarkable amount and abundance of life these systems can support. As such, coral reef complexity is recognized as an important ecological variable that is readily measured in studies on shallow coral reef ecosystems. Despite its demonstrated importance in shallow water reefs, much less is known about the relationship between reef structural complexity and biodiversity in reef ecosystems beyond 30m depth. However, 3D reconstructions produced from underwater video data collected using underwater vehicles provide an opportunity to bring structural complexity research deeper. Structure-from-Motion (SfM) photogrammetry is a technique that generates 3D reconstructions based on the overlap between video frames and can be used to precisely quantify multiple aspects of structural complexity and relate these to observed biodiversity. 

In this project, the student will use video data of mesophotic reefs collected around different Seychellois atolls investigate the influence of mesophotic reef 3D structural complexity on reef associated biodiversity. The project will be largely computer-based and includes a combination of video analysis, SfM photogrammetry and statistics. The student will have a major input on the direction of the project. 

Reading List 

Burns, J. H. R., Delparte, D., Gates, R. D., & Takabayashi, M. (2015). Integrating structure-from-motion photogrammetry with geospatial software as a novel technique for quantifying 3D ecological characteristics of coral reefs. PeerJ, 3, e1077. 

Graham, N. A. J., & Nash, K. L. (2013). The importance of structural complexity in coral reef ecosystems. Coral reefs, 32(2), 315-326.

Number of students: 1

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