Moving to 3D: relationships between coral planar area, surface area and volume.

08 Mar 2018

Coral reefs are a valuable and vulnerable marine ecosystem. The structure of coral reefs influences their health and ability to fulfill ecosystem functions and services. However, monitoring reef corals largely relies on 1D or 2D estimates of coral cover and abundance that overlook change in ecologically significant aspects of the reefs because they do not incorporate vertical or volumetric information. This study explores the relationship between 2D and 3D metrics of coral size. We show that surface area and volume scale consistently with planar area, albeit with morphotype specific conversion parameters. We use a photogrammetric approach using open-source software to estimate the ability of photogrammetry to provide measurement estimates of corals in 3D. Technological developments have made photogrammetry a valid and practical technique for studying coral reefs. We anticipate that these techniques for moving coral research from 2D into 3D will facilitate answering ecological questions by incorporating the 3rd dimension into monitoring.