New Approach to Use of Ocean Floor Depth Data to Predict Distribution of Fish and Corals to Aid Resource Managers
National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science researchers have combined airborne LiDAR (light detection and ranging) ocean floor depths data (bathymetry) and local(in situ) biological data for predicting fish and coral distributions across coral reef ecosystems in southwestern Puerto Rico. Seafloor physical complexity was measured and applied within a geographical information system (GIS) at multiple spatial scales. Predictive models for nineteen fish and two coral measurements were developed using the new method. The models explained variations in fish and coral density and variety using information from a single remote sensing device (the LiDAR unit on the airplane), indicating that the technique will provide a cost-effective tool for conservation planning. The study appears in a Fall 2009 special issue of the Journal of Coastal Research.