Developments in the application of photography to ecological monitoring, with reference to algal beds



1. The potential for using photographic methods in ecological monitoring of intertidal rocky shores was investigated at two scales: the scale of a bay, and at sampling quadrat level.

2. The macroalgal beds at Selwicks Bay, Flamborough Head (north Humberside Coast, England) were used as a case study.

3. At each station on three 90 m transects, a photograph was taken of a 50 cm2 quadrat. These images were analysed using SigmaScan™ to measure the cover of algal species. These data were highly correlated with field data collected using a grid quadrat.

4. Ground techniques were developed for drawing a scaled overhead map of the bay. The potential for a quantitative survey of the extent of the algal beds using cliff top photographs was investigated. The photographs were merged, and rectified using Arc/Info™ (a Geographical Information System package) to produce scaled overhead images of the bay.

5. The two complementary methods developed are suitable for involving amateur naturalists into field-data collection. They were also designed to meet long-term statutory monitoring requirements. They are quick, so are well suited to intertidal areas where field sampling windows are limited. In long-term monitoring strategies, the use of photography produces interactive permanent records of the sample area for back reference. Reporting on the conservation status of sites of European interest could be greatly facilitated by such techniques.

6. There are obvious applications for overseas monitoring and base-line surveys, which demand large data sets to be collected in limited periods of time. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.