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End of the chain? Rugosity and fine-scale bathymetry from existing underwater digital imagery using structure-from-motion (SfM) technology

May 23, 2016

The rugosity or complexity of the seafloor has been shown to be an important ecological parameter for fish, algae, and corals. Historically, rugosity has been measured either using simple and subjective manual methods such as ‘chain-and-tape’ or complicated and expensive geophysical methods. Here, we demonstrate the application of structure-from-motion (SfM) photogrammetry to generate high-resolution, three-dimensional bathymetric models of a fringing reef from existing underwater video collected to characterize the seafloor. SfM techniques are capable of achieving spatial resolution that can be orders of magnitude greater than large-scale lidar and sonar mapping of coral reef ecosystems. The resulting data provide finer-scale measurements of bathymetry and rugosity that are more applicable to ecological studies of coral reefs than provided by the more expensive and time-consuming geophysical methods. Utilizing SfM techniques for characterizing the benthic habitat proved to be more effective and quantitatively powerful than conventional methods and thus might portend the end of the ‘chain-and-tape’ method for measuring benthic complexity.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title End of the chain? Rugosity and fine-scale bathymetry from existing underwater digital imagery using structure-from-motion (SfM) technology
DOI 10.1007/s00338-016-1462-8
Authors Curt D. Storlazzi, Peter Dartnell, Gerry Hatcher, Ann E. Gibbs
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Coral Reefs
Series Number
Index ID 70176147
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center