Seabed classification is essential to assessing environmental associations and physical status in coral reef ecosystems. At Pulaski Shoal in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, nearly continuous underwater-image coverage was acquired in 15.5 hours in 2009 along 70.2 km of transect lines spanning ~0.2 km2. The Along-Track Reef-Imaging System (ATRIS), a boat-based, high-speed, digital imaging system, was used. ATRIS-derived benthic classes were merged with a QuickBird satellite image to create a habitat map that defines areas of senile coral reef, carbonate sand, seagrasses, and coral rubble. This atypical approach of starting with extensive, high-resolution in situ imagery and extrapolating between transect lines using satellite imagery leverages the strengths of each remote-sensing modality. The ATRIS images also captured the spatial distribution of two species once common on now-degraded Florida-Caribbean coral reefs: the stony staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis, a designated threatened species, and the long-spined urchin Diadema antillarum. This article documents the utility of ATRIS imagery for quantifying number and estimating age of A. cervicornis colonies (n = 400, age range, 5–11 y) since the severe hypothermic die-off in the Dry Tortugas in 1976–77. This study is also the first to document the largest number of new colonies of A. cervicornis tabulated in an area of the park where coral-monitoring stations maintained by the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute have not been established. The elevated numbers provide an updated baseline for tracking revival of this species at Pulaski Shoal.
Additional publication details
Possible return of Acropora cervicornis at Pulaski Shoal, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida