Natural history footage provides new reef fish biodiversity information for a pristine but rarely visited archipelago

Liggins, Libby and Sweatman, Jenny Ann and Trnski, Thomas and Duffy, Clinton A. J. and Eddy, Tyler and Aguirre, J. David (2020) Natural history footage provides new reef fish biodiversity information for a pristine but rarely visited archipelago. Scientific Reports, 10 (1). p. 3159. ISSN 2045-2322

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There remain parts of our planet that are seldom visited by humans, let alone scientists. In such locations, crowd-sourced or citizen scientist data can be critical in describing biodiversity and detecting change. Rangitāhua, the Kermadec Islands, are 750 km from the nearest human-habitation. Although our knowledge of this near pristine location has increased with recent biodiversity expeditions, we still lack comprehensive understanding of the marine biodiversity surrounding the islands. In 2015, professional underwater videographers were commissioned to produce a nature documentary focused on Rangitāhua’s reefs. We strategically surveyed the raw documentary video and examined how biodiversity estimates differed from traditional scientific surveys. We uncovered three new fish species records for Rangitāhua, extending the known distribution for each species, two of which are also new records for New Zealand waters. Comparison of documentary video footage with scientific survey methods showed that estimates of reef fish species richness from the documentary video were similar to stationary surveys, but lower than non-stationary surveys. Moreover, all survey methods, including documentary video, captured different fish assemblages, reflecting each method’s particular bias. Overall, we provide a proof-of-concept for how collaborations between scientists and professional natural historians, such as videographers and photographers, can provide valuable biodiversity information.

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 16475
Department(s): Marine Institute > Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research
Marine Institute
Date: 2020
Date Type: Publication
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

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