LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Using new imaging software and underwater cameras, CRF™ is beginning to map reef sites across the Keys as high resolution “photomosaics”. Each mosaic is assembled from hundreds of individual photos, and can capture thousands of square meters of reef in a single image.
CRF monitors the health of every coral we outplant in the wild for at least a year. While, with this technology, we are still able to monitor for fine-scale impacts to a coral cluster or colony, photomosaics represent a big step forward for our coral monitoring and allow us to take a broader, ecosystem-level view of the areas we are restoring.
By supplementing traditional monitoring with large scale digital imaging, we can look beyond the survivorship of individual corals and measure the health of entire restoration sites. This focus on the total area of reef restored creates a more complete picture our restoration success, and will guide our future outplanting work.
In the next three years, we plan to complete 103 new mosaics to monitor our corals in the wild, which will range in size from 250 to 3,000 square meters. 32 of these mosaics will capture pilot work at sites where CRF has never outplanted before, and will establish photomosaics as our best tool for measuring the health of our outplanted corals.
Over the past 12 months, we have already completed 33 monitoring mosaics across eight of our reef sites. These new images have shown that after just one year at Carysfort Reef, a group of 1,050 staghorn has grown to restore over 400 square meters of reef! Recent mosaics have also demonstrated that 87% of our elkhorn outplants at Pickles Reef are still surviving, and that 1,500 staghorn corals at the same site have increased their coverage by 71% in their first month.
These results are a great proof of concept for our mosaic program, and we are expecting to generate much more data as we train our staff and volunteers with this new technique. CRF™ is always exploring new methods to improve the health and success of our corals, and we are excited to expand our restoration efforts even further as we map larger sections of the Keys with photomosaics.
We are ecstatic to give you a huge monitoring update: we are right on schedule and are almost finished with monitoring for the year of 2019!
Since 2016, we have been working in collaboration with the NOAA Restoration Center to progress our coral outplanting and monitoring goals.This means that in 2019, our goal was to outplant 1,500 corals of staghorn and elkhorn to eight reefs, and we’ve just hit that goal!
But we’re not quite done yet! We need to monitor all of those corals after one month and one year of being outplanted. For our one month monitoring, we have Looe Key and Coffins Patch left to monitor, which means we’ve already monitored 18,000 corals and only have 6,000 more to go! Additionally, we are just missing our yearly monitoring from our 2018 coral outplants from Sombrero Reef. It’s very exciting to revisit our corals and see how they’ve grown and fused together, establishing themselves on their new reef homes.
In the next few weeks, our teams will be working hard to clean up and begin analyzing this immense dataset. We look forward to using these results to educate and further improve our restoration program.
"Talking Science" Editorial Intern
Nik is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, where he studied English and environmental science. He grew up in Virginia, and first learned to dive on a family trip to the US Virgin Islands in 2011. During college, he travelled to Bocas Del Toro, Panama to study ocean acidification with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Nik is very happy to be contributing to the Coral Restoration Foundation™’s important work, and hopes to make a positive impact on the Keys’ marine communities both on land and in the water.