CAMBASUN: Central America Marine Biodiversity Acoustic Surveillance Network
Project coordinator: Laura J May-Collado
Ecological Acoustic Recorder (EAR)
In response to coastal overexploitation and habitat degradation a campaign to protect our marine biodiversity and ecosystem integrity has resulted in the establishment of approximately 5000 MPAs covering about 0.08% of the world's oceans. Despite these efforts, the United Nations Environmental Programme highlighted the need for tools to evaluate performance and strengthen capacity for MPA network establishment. How can we evaluate and strengthen MPAs when lacking basic understanding of marine communities within and outside MPAs? Employing field biologists is one solution, but is typically high-cost and the rate of data gathering still would leave major information gaps. An elegant solution is to use indirect cues of diversity, such as sound. A considerable proportion of marine fauna emit species-specific sounds for communication. Acoustic monitoring has proven to be a powerful tool for rapid biodiversity assessment; particularly in marine ecosystems where visibility limits direct observation. The goal of this initiative is to provide stakeholders in Costa Rica and Panama with the tools and information to evaluate the effectiveness of MPAs, and thus facilitate timely decisions on conservation planning, promoting connectivity and research, better assessing the economic value of these areas and enhancing awareness, of marine conservation in the region. We aim to do this by establishing a remote underwater acoustic surveillance network, generating acoustic measures of biodiversity and flagship species abundance as indicators to assess MPA efficiency and by making the data available in an interactive website where educational, exploratory and analytical tools will be available to the public.
Preliminary work: Monitoring the Dolphins of Turneffe Atoll, Belize
In 2012 thanks to Oceanic Society and Tim Barhorst we deployed the first EAR unit in Turneffe Atoll. The main goal of this unit in Belize is to monitor the occurrence of bottlenose dolphins within the Atoll. However, in the process we have recording several species of fish which sounds are described in our Report below.
How does the network works?
EARS in the water
The core value of MPAs is to preserve marine biodiversity. The current biodiversity crisis requires biologists to rapidly gather and synthesize basic information on marine diversity at a number of spatial and temporal scales. Particularly, we need to ensure that established MPAs are effectively preserving biodiversity and that other important ecologically and biologically significant areas are also protected. This project provides stakeholders the necessary biological indicators to expedites decision-making, improve MPA management and an alternative to evaluate MPAs effectiveness in preserving marine life contributing significantly to our ocean conservation in the region. Our multi-institute team will ensure the success of this project. We have the experience deploying long-term monitoring units, handling mega- acoustic databases, transforming acoustic files into values of biodiversity and designing algorithms for species identification. We also have the experience developing models to measure habitat use and abundance as well as computational expertise to create a resourceful website with useful tools that can be use to assess MAP success and enhance awareness in ocean conservation. We propose to deploy 20 Ecological Acoustic Recorders (EARs) in major MPAs in Costa Rica and Panama during a three-year period. EARs are an underwater acoustic recorder developed by our colleagues at Ocean Science Institute that capture a wide range of sounds from invertebrates, fish, cetaceans, vessels, and even surface weather events. These units have been deployed worldwide to monitor marine biodiversity. EARs will be synchronized and programmed to continuously sample the soundscape for 1 min every 10 min, resulting in a total of 144 acoustic files a day per EAR and 1,051,200 recordings per year. Our team will develop analytical tools to estimate acoustic biodiversity and for species automated identification that will be freely available in the CAMBASUN website. We will organize multiple workshops with stakeholders in the region to maximize use of our website data and resources.
ARBIMON promoting free access to large data bases
The Automated Remote Biodiversity Monitoring Network (ARBIMON) at University of Puerto Rico and lead by Dr. Mitch Aide and Dr. Carlos Corrada will help us to process the data obtained by the EARs with tools to transform the recordings into measures of biodiversity, alternatives to generate algorithms that can find species signals within thousands of recordings, and providing free access to the database to the scientific community and the public.
The figure shows the preliminary results of an algorithm developed with ARBIMON tools to find bottlenose whistles from Belize
What can we expect from this network?
The anticipated results of this project include the implementation of an innovative monitoring system that reduces field costs, improves data collection efficiency, accelerates data processing by providing stakeholders with applications to estimate acoustic biodiversity and monitor flagship species, and expedites decision-making by providing analytical tools that can translate presence-absence data into information about the status of the community of interest. Acoustic monitoring in these MPAs promises to render fruitful results. We expect to generate a total of 3,153,600 permanent acoustic vouchers in 3 years. This mega-database will provide us with soundscape information that can be used to determine changes in biodiversity and species composition at various temporal and geographical scales, study interactions between species, estimate flagship species occupancy, predict regime shifts, and even monitor the effect of vessel activity (e.g., engine noise) within MPAs.
Measuring biodiverity using sound
Acoustic Complexity Index (ACI) for one location in Turneffe, Belize. The ACI is one of the several available indexes that describe soundscape, in this case the ACI prioritizes on sounds with variability in high intensity.
Acoustic Richness Index for Turneffe, Belize. This index estimates alpha diversity in areas with high levels of background noise.