Example of reef halos around Hawaiian Islands as observed from satellite images.
CREDIT: Elizabeth Madin Lab
A new conservation tool in the field of coral reef ecology has been developed by University of Hawai‘i (UH) at M?noa researchers using cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
By developing novel deep learning algorithms, coral ecologists in the UH M?noa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) are now able to identify and measure reef halos from space.
These features, also known as grazing halos or sand halos, consist of ring-like patterns of bare sand that occur around coral patch reefs, and their presence is readily visible from satellite images.
“Reef halos may be important indicators of the health and vitality of coral reefs, but until now, their measurement and tracking has been a challenging and time-consuming process,” said Simone Franceschini, lead author of the study and postdoctoral research fellow in the Madin Lab at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) in SOEST. “However, with this new method, we can accurately identify and measure reef halos on a global scale in a tiny fraction of the time it would take a human being to accomplish the same task.”
“We’re aiming to develop a freely available remote sensing tool to monitor ecological processes over large scales to improve the understanding and management of coral reef ecosystems,” said Elizabeth Madin, the study’s senior author and associate research professor at HIMB. “Our current research shows that reef halos may represent an emerging opportunity to monitor reef ecosystems’ function at large scales, including in remote and otherwise inaccessible areas.”
In recent years, computer vision techniques have been increasingly used to recognize patterns in medical and biological studies. In ecology, applications of image analysis coupled with advancements in satellite imaging technology have improved large-scale ecosystem analysis and wildlife conservation.
“This work stems from our team’s understanding of the current state of AI technology and its potential applications for conservation research in coral reef ecosystems,” Madin added.
Although AI technology has shown excellent performance in the field of image analysis, the identification of halos – a complex, ecological pattern with much variation – was a challenge that required combining different deep learning algorithms.
“Reef halos are sometimes very clear in satellite imagery, with distinct edges and high contrast with background vegetation, but sometimes they are quite faint and hard to distinguish – even by a highly trained observer,” said Franceschini. “In the end, our team was able to develop a set of algorithms capable of taking into account the diversity of these patterns globally and identify and measure halos with surprising accuracy. It is hugely satisfying for us to now have built something that can accurately identify more than 90% of halos in some parts of the world.”
Coral reefs, one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, upon which many millions of people globally depend, are under threat from overfishing, climate change, and many other factors. These ecosystems, and particularly the impact of fisheries and marine reserves on them, are notoriously difficult to monitor at large scales and over time.
“This breakthrough is a key step in scaling up – in both space and time – our ability to monitor and quantify aspects of coral reef ecosystem health,” said Madin. “By providing a more efficient and effective way to measure coral patch reefs and their surrounding halos, this new method paves the way for the development of a global-scale reef conservation and monitoring tool based on the phenomenon of reef halos.”
The team is aiming to develop, in the near future, a freely-available web app that can allow conservation practitioners, scientists, and resource managers to remotely, quickly, and inexpensively monitor aspects of reef health using satellite or drone imagery.
Original Article: AI brings new tool to remote monitoring of global reef health
More from: University of Hawaii
The Latest Updates from Bing News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Coral reef monitoring
- The underwater zoo of coral reefs
Seventy percent of our planet is covered by ocean. And under the waves, an incredible world of mountains, valleys and communities filled with life.
- Monitoring how summer heat impacts crab season in South Florida waters
Joe’s sources much of its crab claws from the Florida Keys, where rising mercury over the summer had scientists scrambling. Water temperatures in the Keys were at record highs, wreaking havoc on the ...
- OPINION | Restoring Pacific reefs
Australia has 16 Pacific island neighbours who are all on the frontline of climate change, which they declare is their single greatest existential threat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric ...
- FL - County Looking To Expand String of Artificial Reefs
Hernando County has taken the initial steps to expand its offshore reef system, courtesy of $2 million in grant funding from the BP oil spill settlement.
- Best Cyber Monday monitor deals
Cyber Monday is a spectacular time for monitor deals. Whether you’re into watching movies, working all day, or competitive gaming at night, a good monitor can make a massive difference.
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Coral reef ecology
- As Seas Get Warmer, Tropical Species Are Moving Further From The Equator
Climate change is causing tropical species in the ocean to move from the equator towards the poles, while temperate species recede. This mass moveme ...
- Mote partners with SCUBAPRO on new Coral Reef Restoration Citizen Science Program
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is partnering with Johnson Outdoors, together with its SCUBAPRO brand, to create a community coral reef restoration program that offers divers the opportunity to ...
- Texas oyster harvests plunge again as climate change and overharvesting threaten industry, officials say
Texas has closed the majority of its public oyster reefs for the second consecutive year due to declining populations caused by climate change and overharvesting.
- How Elasmobranchs Adapt To A Warmer World
Elasmobranchs (which includes sharks, skates, and rays) have thrived for over 450 million years and survived Earth's most dramatic climate shifts, including the five mass extinction events. Yet, in ...
- Coral Reefs News
Scientists Discover Deepest Known Evidence of Coral Reef Bleaching Oct. 19 ... one of the theories that has underpinned ecology for over half a century. In doing so, the findings raise further ...