In the early years, a technique using scientific divers was developed to reliably count the number and sizes of reef fish by species. In the mid-90's a statistical method was developed to link diver visual counts and advanced mathematical calculations in a rigorous sampling process. This involved dividing the entire Florida Keys reef ecosystem into small sections classified according to simple features like soft and hard bottom, coral, and other features that related to where fish might live. Within each type of habitat a random process was used to select which areas were sampled by divers. This monitoring framework allowed the researchers to calculate the abundance and size-structure of more than 250 exploited and non-target reef fishes from Miami to Key West and out to the Dry Tortugas.
"Through our collaborative work we were able to create a framework that brings together cutting edge techniques in underwater sampling, coral reef mapping and statistical survey design that will serve us well as our marine resources continue to be impacted by fishing, habitat degradation and environmental changes," Smith said.
Although the team began using its theories in the Florida Keys, the new framework is fully transferable to other U.S. coral reef ecosystems and areas around the globe.
"We have already been using this methodology in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to assess multispecies reef fish populations, and federal and local management agencies are extremely pleased with the results of these efforts," said Ault. "We hope to employ this approach in new areas in order to have a single, quantitative framework to assess coral reefs at local, regional, national, and international spatial scales."
|Contact: Barbra Gonzalez|
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science