Site Selection for Coral Reef Restoration Using Airborne Imaging Spectroscopy

Steven R. Schill, Gregory P. Asner, Valerie Pietsch McNulty, F. Joseph Pollock, Aldo Croquer, Nicholas R. Vaughn, Ximena Escovar-Fadul, George Raber, Elizabeth Shaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Over the past decade, coral restoration efforts have increased as reefs continue to decline at unprecedented rates. Identifying suitable coral outplanting locations to maximize coral survival continues to be one of the biggest challenges for restoration practitioners. Here, we demonstrate methods of using derivatives from imaging spectroscopy from the Global Airborne Observatory (GAO) to identify suitable coral outplant sites and report on the survival rates of restored coral at those sites. Outplant sites for a community-based, citizen science outplant event in Bávaro, Dominican Republic, were identified using expert-defined criteria applied to a suitability model from data layers derived from airborne imagery. Photo quadrat analysis of the benthic community confirmed the accuracy of airborne remote sensing maps with live coral cover averaging 3.5–4% and mean algal cover (macro algae and turf) ranging from 28 to 32%. Coral outplant sites were selected at 3–7 m depth with maximized levels of habitat complexity (i.e., rugosity) and live coral cover and minimized levels of macroalgal cover, as predicted by the imaging spectrometer data. In November 2019, 1,722 Acropora cervicornis fragments (80–180 mm in length) were outplanted to these sites. Surveys conducted in January 2020 in four of these sites confirmed that 92% of outplants survived after 3 months. By October 2020 (11 months after outplanting), survivorship remained above 76%. These results demonstrate higher than average success rates for coral outplant survival for this species. An online tool was developed to enable replication and facilitate future selection of coral restoration sites. Our objective is to present a case study that uses GAO-derived map products within a suitability model framework to provide a quantitative and replicable method for selecting coral restoration sites with the goal of increasing outplant survival over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number698004
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Volume8
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 29 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Caribbean
  • coral outplanting
  • coral survival
  • imaging spectroscopy
  • reef restoration
  • remote sensing
  • suitability modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ocean Engineering

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