A paper released by a multi-disciplinary team of scientists and engineers has concluded that advanced monitoring and diagnostics technologies, plus a research strategy that uses case-study reefs to test and implement solutions before scaling up, is urgently needed to implement recent technological innovations on time scales that will make a difference to the most at-risk reefs.
“For decades, the reef science community has relied on individual divers and photographic surveys to document reef health and devise conservation and intervention plans,” said Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) microbiologist and Reef Solutions initiative team leader Amy Apprill. “But the challenges reefs face today are so complex and interrelated that we need new ways of tackling this crisis before it’s too late.”
The Reef Solutions approach centres on harmonising interdisciplinary research in a way that draws inspiration from the complex biological, chemical, and physical processes supporting reef ecosystems. Key to the initiative is the rapid deployment of new advances in autonomous and distributed technology to extend the reach of observation, monitoring, and intervention efforts.
“Technology to understand and protect reefs has advanced so much in recent years that we need to make a focused effort as a community to leverage these tools in new ways to accelerate knowledge about these critical ecosystems,” said Apprill. “It’s not just the reefs that depend on this—peoples’ lives and livelihoods are on the line.”
Image: CUREE is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), designed to explore underwater ecosystems, observe complex interactions between the organisms that live there and their habitats, and use these observations in real-time to adapt its behavior as an intelligent partner for marine science. Credit: Austin Greene, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
More information: Amy Apprill et al, Toward a New Era of Coral Reef Monitoring, Environmental Science & Technology (2023). DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c05369
Journal information: Environmental Science & Technology