Developing methods for assessing abundance and distribution of European oysters (Ostrea edulis) using towed video

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Abstract

Due to large-scale habitat losses and increasing pressures, benthic habitats in general, and perhaps oyster beds in particular, are commonly in decline and severely threatened on regional and global scales. Appropriate and cost-efficient methods for mapping and monitoring of the distribution, abundance and quality of remaining oyster populations are fundamental for sustainable management and conservation of these habitats and their associated values. Towed video has emerged as a promising method for surveying benthic communities in a both non-destructive and cost-efficient way. Here we examine its use as a tool for quantification and monitoring of oyster populations by (i) analysing how well abundances can be estimated and how living Ostrea edulis individuals can be distinguished from dead ones, (ii) estimating the variability within and among observers as well as the spatial variability at a number of scales, and finally (iii) evaluating the precision of estimated abundances under different scenarios for monitoring. Overall, the results show that the can be used to quantify abundance and occurrence of Ostrea edulis in heterogeneous environments. There was a strong correlation between abundances determined in the field and abundances estimated by video-analyses (r2 = 0.93), even though video analyses underestimated the total abundance of living oysters by 20%. Additionally, the method was largely repeatable within and among observers and revealed no evident bias in identification of living and dead oysters. We also concluded that the spatial variability was an order of magnitude larger than that due to observer errors. Subsequent modelling of precision showed that the total area sampled was the main determinant of precision and provided general method for determining precision. This study provides a thorough validation of the application of towed video on quantitative estimations of live oysters. The results suggest that the method can indeed be very useful for this purpose and we therefor recommend it for future monitoring of oysters and other threatened habitats and species.

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Thorngren, L., Holthuis, T. D., Lindegarth, S., & Lindegarth, M. (2017). Developing methods for assessing abundance and distribution of European oysters (Ostrea edulis) using towed video. PLoS ONE, 12(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187870

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