High resolution determination of coral reef bottom cover from multispectral fluorescence laser line scan imagery

Mazel, Charles H., Michael P. Strand, Michael P. Lesser, Michael P. Crosby, Bryan Coles, Andrew J. Nevis

Limnol. Oceanogr., 48(1_part_2), 2003, 522-534 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2003.48.1_part_2.0522

ABSTRACT: A prototype in-water laser line-scanning multispectral fluorescence imaging system was evaluated for its ability to provide data that could be used to determine the quantitative distribution and abundance of various functional groups on coral reefs. The system collected fluorescence imagery in three spectral bands with 1 cm2 resolution at sites in Florida and the Bahamas. Fluorescence excitation was at 488 nm, and imagery was collected in emission bands centered at 520, 580, and 685 nm. Ground truth data on bottom cover was collected by divers using conventional line transect and photographic quadrat methods. A set of classification rules based on the relative signal levels in the three fluorescence channels was developed to assign the image pixels to functional groups. Once the image was classified, percent cover data for the groups were computed for the full image and for subsets of the image chosen to simulate line transect, grid survey, and photographic quadrat surveys. The statistics of percent cover of various bottom types derived from the fluorescence image compared favorably with those determined by diver survey techniques. The results demonstrate that fluorescence imaging has the long-term potential to provide coverage of large spatial areas of coral reefs at high resolution, with automated classification and quantification of functional groups in the image.

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