Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Understanding biodiversity on intertidal reefs

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Lord Howe Island Signal

periwinkle bembicium flavescens
The endemic periwinkle Bembicium flavescens is one intertidal reef species found only in the LHI Island Marine Park (photo Caitlin Woods)

Lord Howe Island (LHI) resident Caitlin Woods is in the final year of her PhD and is well underway analysing and writing up her results. For the past two years Caitlin has been surveying the intertidal reefs (i.e. rocky shores) in the LHI Marine Park, collecting information not only on the critters inhabiting them but also on the physical structure of the reefs themselves.

To do this, she visually surveyed 15,600 square metres of habitat, documenting the identity and abundance of organisms. In collaboration with LHI drone pilot Blake Thompson, digital 3D models of the reefs were also created to allow measurement of their physical characteristics (slope, elevation, width, complexity etc).

The information will be used to develop habitat models and classification schemes, which will help predict the patterns of biodiversity throughout the marine park. This may reduce the need for extensive (and time consuming) biodiversity surveys, making management more efficient and effective.

digital 3D model of the intertidal reef platform at Middle Beach
A digital 3D model of the intertidal reef platform at Middle Beach (courtesy Caitlin Woods)

So far, this study has uncovered numerous species not previously documented in the LHI Marine Park, with genetic analysis currently underway to identify others. We look forward to seeing the final outcomes of Caitlin’s research, which will be presented to the community and available via the LHI Marine Park office.

The Signal 30 September 2020

This research has been funded by the Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Solutions – University of Wollongong (UOW), and additional thanks are owed to staff and supervisors from UOW, the Australian Museum staff, and LHI Marine Park staff.

This article appeared in the Lord Howe Island Signal, 30 September 2020.


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