Professor Rob Dunbar of Stanford University gives us an in depth look in to the science techniques being used to monitor environmental conditions in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).
The current Bertarelli Foundation-funded conservation science expedition aboard the Grampian Frontier has deployed 35 environmental monitoring instruments at 11 sites within the Chagos archipelago.
Instruments are monitoring dissolved oxygen levels, salinity, ocean temperatures and light levels as well as water flow, tides, and coral reef boundary layer dynamics. At three sites, the team deployed a modified BEAMS (benthic ecosystem and acidification monitoring system) array for periods ranging from 1.5 to 3 days.
The BEAMS methods provides accurate measurements of primary production rates and calcification on coral reefs. In turn, this allows us to assess reef health using some important but hard to acquire information.
When deployed over longer periods (the science plan for next field season) we can estimate whether a reef system is laying down skeleton or losing density through dissolution. We can also assess the extent to which BIOT reefs are exporting versus retaining food – one key step in determining linkages between island and reefs systems and the pelagic food webs.
This photo of the BEAMS deployed at Middle Brother Island shows its various components. Water is alternately pumped from 20 cm and 70 cm above the reef substrate and flows through sensors that very precisely record temperature, salinity, pressure and pH. We also monitor photosynthetically active light levels and measure current velocities in 3 directions within 1 cm thick layers throughout the lower half of the water column.
This system allows us to determine gradients in oxygen and pH above the reef and to convert these gradients to rates of production and dissolution over timescales of minutes using the flow data. Coral reefs have evolved over millions of years to become hotspots of biochemical processing in shallow water – a system fueled by sunlight, carbon dioxide, nutrients, and carbonate salts dissolved in the water.
The BEAMS system is providing the first quantitative understanding of how efficiently this processing is occurring on reefs recovering from recent bleaching events. Although we haven’t completed at the necessary calculations we’ve examined the raw data sets and know that all instrumentation operated as expected.
For more updates from this and future expeditions follow us on Twitter @BIOTScience
This work was kindly funded by the Bertarelli Foundation as part of the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science.
Select a blog
Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.
At ZSL, a key area of our work is the employment of Nature-based Solutions – an approach which both adapt to and mitigates the impacts of climate change. These Solutions, which include habitat protection and restoration, are low-cost yet high-impact, and provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife. We ensure that biodiversity recovery is at the heart of nature-based solutions.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.
Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!
We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.
From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.
Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.
Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.
ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.
An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.