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Comparative study of towed underwater video methodology

Author : Emma Sheehan, David Rodriguez-Rodriguez, Nicola Foster, Sarah Nancollas, Sophie Cousens, Luke Holmes, Martin Attrill, Erin Pettifer, Ian Jones, Sandrine Vaz, Jean-Valery Facq, Gregory Germain
Date : 03/03/2015

Underwater imagery studies are increasingly being used to identify vulnerable communities and ecosystems and help designate and manage marine protected areas (MPAs).  This method also provides a valuable range of tools that can be used to assess many descriptors of the Good Environmental Status in European waters.This study tests the use of  towed underwater video systems as effective, non-destructive and efficient techniques for the monitoring of marine ecological features within these especially sensitive areas. Three technically different towed video sledges were tested on different seabed types (rocky, mixed ground and sandy) in the same MPA, Kingmere Marine Conservation Zone, West Sussex, UK. Each sled was assessed to compare the different characteristics, strengths and limitations of each device with the aim of providing recommendations on their future use and comparability of data between different systems. Heavy frames are more  adaptable in all kind of depth and sea conditions but proved difficult to operate on irregular grounds and were found to  significantly impact the seabed. Significant differences in terms of species richness, densities or cover as well species composition were highlighted and are believed to be due to the deployment limits of each gear as well as difference in their optical specifications. Good lighting intensity, and the use of HD resolution are believed to increase the taxonomic power of the video footages. As a result from this study, particular care should be given to sledge and optics specifications when developing a middle or long term MPA monitoring programme.

 

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updated on 03/05/2015
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