MEPS 400:19-36 (2010)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08377

A comparison of two survey methods: differences between underwater visual census and baited remote underwater video

Madhavi A. Colton*, Stephen E. Swearer

Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia

ABSTRACT: Essential to any model, conservation or management plan are measures of the distribution and abundance of a species. Countless methods for estimating these parameters exist, making it essential to assess the limitations and biases associated with a particular sampling protocol. Here, we compare between 2 methods commonly used to survey nearshore fish assemblages. Although most commonly employed, underwater visual census (UVC) may yield biased estimates of abundance depending on the strength of a fish’s behavioural response (i.e. avoidance, attraction) to the presence of divers. Baited remote underwater video (BRUV) techniques have shown promise in overcoming some of the limitations of UVC, but are unable to provide an absolute measure of density in turbulent environments. We compare the abilities of these 2 methods to survey the nearshore rocky reef ichthyofauna of Southeast Australia. We found that relative to BRUV, UVC recorded more individuals (in terms of all species, herbivores, cryptic species, and most territorial species), higher richness at both the species and family level, and higher biodiversity as measured using the Shannon Index. These findings remain even when the data were adjusted for differences in sampling effort. In contrast, BRUV recorded proportionally more mobile predators, and a more taxonomically distinct population, though only when taxonomic evenness was not taken into account. Twenty species were unique to UVC and 17 species unique to BRUV. Considering this, studies aimed at cataloguing diversity should apply multiple methods. However, when logistical or financial constraints limit biodiversity studies to only 1 method, UVC will likely provide a more complete estimate of temperate reef fish diversity than BRUV.


KEY WORDS: Subtidal fish assemblages · Rocky reefs · Diversity · Herbivores · Territoriality · Mobile predators · Sightability index · Taxonomic distinctness · Victoria · Australia


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Cite this article as: Colton MA, Swearer SE (2010) A comparison of two survey methods: differences between underwater visual census and baited remote underwater video. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 400:19-36

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