Megafauna community assessment of polymetallic-nodule fields with cameras: platform and methodology comparison

Schoening, Timm; Purser, Autun; Langenkämper, Daniel; Suck, Inken; Taylor, James; Cuvelier, Daphne; Lins, Lidia; Simon-Lledó, Erik; Marcon, Yann; Jones, Daniel O. B.; Nattkemper, Tim; Köser, Kevin; Zurowietz, Martin; Greinert, Jens; Gomes-Pereira, Jose

With the mining of polymetallic nodules from the deep-sea seafloor once more evoking commercial interest, decisions must be taken on how to most efficiently regulate and monitor physical and community disturbance in these remote ecosystems. Image-based approaches allow non-destructive assessment of the abundance of larger fauna to be derived from survey data, with repeat surveys of areas possible to allow time series data collection. At the time of writing, key underwater imaging platforms commonly used to map seafloor fauna abundances are autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and towed camera “ocean floor observation systems” (OFOSs). These systems are highly customisable, with cameras, illumination sources and deployment protocols changing rapidly, even during a survey cruise. In this study, eight image datasets were collected from a discrete area of polymetallic-nodule-rich seafloor by an AUV and several OFOSs deployed at various altitudes above the seafloor. A fauna identification catalogue was used by five annotators to estimate the abundances of 20 fauna categories from the different datasets. Results show that, for many categories of megafauna, differences in image resolution greatly influenced the estimations of fauna abundance determined by the annotators. This is an important finding for the development of future monitoring legislation for these areas. When and if commercial exploitation of these marine resources commences, robust and verifiable standards which incorporate developing technological advances in camera-based monitoring surveys should be key to developing appropriate management regulations for these regions.



Schoening, Timm / Purser, Autun / Langenkämper, Daniel / et al: Megafauna community assessment of polymetallic-nodule fields with cameras: platform and methodology comparison. 2020. Copernicus Publications.


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