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  • Roosje Rutten

Flat Oyster Reef Monitoring with WMR

Updated: Apr 3

In partnership with Wageningen Marine Research, we've used the Lobster Scout to map large oyster reef areas, showing a simpler, faster and safer method of collecting crucial data needed to protect such biogenic reefs.



Client: Wageningen Marine Research, leading research insititute of the Netherlands

Period: April 2023

Location(s): Brouwersdam



Key takeaways

In this pilot, we have:

  1. Mapped 10 times more seafloor in the same time using the Lobster Scout compared to using scuba divers for data gathering.

  2. Created an ecosystem-scale map of the flat oyster reef near Brouwersdam, with enough detail to confidently identify macrofauna as well.

'We are very enthusiastic about the possibilities of the Scout. It could take full-coverage photos of the oyster reef in the Voordelta in 2023, allowing us to suddenly count every mussel, oyster, and starfish. This way, we can, for example, monitor changes in numbers and coverage by species in the future. The results were also available very quickly. We see great potential for this technology for our ecological research of the seabed.'

-Oscar Bos, Marine Ecologist at WMR.

 

 

Challenge

 

WMR is currently investigating the possibility to designate the natural oyster reef on the North Sea side of the Brouwersdam as a protected area. This is because the flat oyster is classified as endangered under the OSPAR convention, and because one of the environmental goals of the Netherlands is the return and restoration of such biogenic reefs.

            

For this objective, WMR anticipates the need for larger scale habitat monitoring with greater certainty. Their current methods involving scuba divers are intensive, costly, and ineffective at scale. The use of small ROVs also has deficiencies, requiring expertise and being very sensitive to weather conditions and underwater visibility. Additionally, the process of analyzing the recorded data is difficult and time-consuming.



This video was recorded by one of WMR's ROVs, demonstrating the challenges of this method. Due to the poor waterquality it is difficult to determine what is being captured.

 

 

Solution                                                       

 

This pilot project explored the use of the Lobster Scout for gathering data by mapping the flat oyster banks near Brouwersdam. Our robot sailed several 50 meter line transects as well as three 400 m2 squares, adding to WMR's usual line method to gain more insight into the composition of the oyster habitats.

In one operation day, the Lobster Scout captured 3000 high-quality images, which is more data than WMR would typically be able to gather in a week with their current methods.


Despite the environmental fluctuations and variations in water quality, the Lobster Scout captured sharp photos of the flat oyster reef. Mapping large areas and seamlessly assembling them together to create one large seafloor map, we've been able to provide extensive and detailed research data for the marine researchers at WMR, in which the macrofauna is able to become visible and identifiable.


In the map bellow you can see it for yourself. We've had to compress the data slightly for it to be compatible with the website, but it still gives a good impression of what we're able to do for our clients.



You can scroll through the seabed to discover for yourself what lies beneath the surface.



Because the Lobster Scout can sail such large transects, the different sub-ecologies throughout the flat oyster reef are able to become visible too. For example, in this particular area there are a lot more mussels (Mytilus edulis) and starfish (Asteria rubens) present than throughout the areas in the scrollable map above.



Besides demonstrating the succes of our technology in dealing with WMR's challenges, the pilot was also a good testing opportunity for our prototype. During the demo we discovered multiple issues that affected the quality of the survey. Luckily, our development team was able to solve these issues quickly and test the implementation immediately.

In the end we delivered valuable data to the client and made our system more reliable.

 


Impact


Investing in new methods to monitor biogenic reefs, such as the flat oyster reef near Brouwersdam, on a larger scale is vital for safeguarding the future health of the North Sea. These efforts enable greater cost-efficiency and ease, facilitating high quality research and improving education about the wonderful marine ecosystems within the North Sea. We're proud to have taken a step in the right direction with WMR through this pilot project.



Media



Photos by Oscar Bos.

 

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