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Kenya joins the OBIS network

The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) joined the OBIS network as the national OBIS node in Kenya.

October 10, 2018 - OBISKenya OBIS node

Rae Sita Pratiwi joined the OBIS secretariat to support the development of the OBIS-Indonesia node

We welcome Rae Sita Pratiwi as a UNESCO volunteer at the IOC Project Office for IODE, Oostende. During the next 6 months, she will support us with the development of a national OBIS node hosted at LIPI's Research Centre for Oceanography in Indonesia

October 02, 2018 - iOBISOBIS volunteer Indonesia

OTGA/INIOAS/OBIS Training took place in Iran, 23-26 September 2018

A training course under the auspices of the Ocean Teacher Global Academy (OTGA) on Marine Biogeographic Data processing using OBIS was organized by the IOC of UNESCO and the Iranian National Institute for Oceanography and Atmospheric Science (INIOAS) at INIOAS, I.R.IRAN which also hosts the OBIS node for the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman (PEGO-OBIS node).

October 02, 2018 - Abdolvahab MaghsoudlousOBIS training Iran

Indonesia joins the OBIS network through LIPI's Research Centre for Oceanography

The Research Centre for Oceanography of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences joined the OBIS network as the OBIS node in Indonesia.

October 02, 2018 - OBISIndonesia OBIS node

Report from the Pole-to-Pole MBON & GOOS & OBIS workshop "Marine Biodiversity - from the Sea to the Cloud"

The Pole to Pole Marine Biodiversity Observation Network of the Americas (P2P MBON) gathered researchers and managers from Canada to Patagonia and experts from other parts of the world, at the Centro de Biologia Marinha da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil (CEBIMar/USP) during the 2018 AmeriGEOSS Week (August 6-10, 2018). The main objective of the workshop was to promote the convergence on strategies for biodiversity monitoring and conservation in rocky intertidal areas and sandy beaches. This process continues to build the foundations of the P2P MBON network in the GEO context, in a partnership between various GEO elements (GEO BON/MBON, AmeriGEOSS, Blue Planet) and OBIS.

September 24, 2018 - Eduardo KleinOBIS training MBON GOOS

New data loaded, August 2018

Last August, 81 new datasets, 1.2M new records, and 3.5k new marine species were added to OBIS. The current version of the OBIS database now has 59 million occurrences of 121,400 species. The database report with a full dataset overview is available here.

September 10, 2018 - OBISnew data load

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Use cases

OBIS data reveals that climate change will exacerbate the impact of historical overfishing on an iconic Caribbean reef fish

Grouper Conservation efforts Climate Change

The Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) is an endangered fish species whose population has been reduced to a fraction of its historical abundance due to overfishing at spawning aggregation sites. Like many other groupers and snappers, Nassau Groupers solely reproduces during spawning aggregations where hundreds-to-thousands of fish migrate to specific sites to engage in spawning. Since Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations recur each year at predictable times linked to the phase of the moon, they are an easy target for fishermen once the location of an aggregation site has been identified. As a result, many Nassau Grouper spawning aggregation sites have been extirpated throughout the Greater Caribbean region. While some populations are recovering due to conservation, the management of this species has not yet considered how climate change could impact Nassau Grouper.

This topic was explored in a recently published paper appearing in the journal Diversity and Distributions. Here researchers from East Carolina University and the University of Texas at Austin utilized data from OBIS and a database of spawning aggregation sites to generate separate species distribution models for non-spawning adult Nassau Grouper and spawning fishes. While both of these life history stages were affected by temperature and hydrodynamic features, preferred habitat conditions differed by life history stage. In particular, spawning aggregations were characterized by a narrower thermal niche and occurred at cooler temperatures. This suggests that the spawning life stage may form a bottleneck constraining how this species responds to climate change. Indeed, under a business-as-usual climate change scenario, spawning aggregations were projected to experience an 82% decline in available habitat by the end of the 21st century. In contrast, habitats used by non-spawning adult Nassau Grouper were projected to undergo a comparatively smaller 46% decline. Even under the RCP 2.6 climate change scenario, which includes implementation of strong climate change mitigation measures, spawning habitats for Nassau Grouper are projected to decline by 30%. These decreases in habitat availability were accompanied by northward shifts in Nassau Grouper distribution and a shortening of the spawning season.</p>

Overall, this study indicates that many current-day conservation measures meant to protect Nassau Grouper may need to be adjusted to provide adequate future protection for this species. For example, the dates of seasonal closures at spawning aggregation sites will need to be adjusted to account for changes in the seasonality of spawning. Similarly, this paper tentatively identifies a few regions that could serve as climate change refugia for Nassau Grouper, which may deserve to be the focus of future conservation efforts.</p>

Reference: Asch, R.G.; Erisman, B. (2018). Spawning aggregations act as a bottleneck influencing climate change impacts on a critically endangered reef fish. Diversity Distrib. Online first. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ddi.12809.

Photo credit: Alfredo Barroso Ruiz

More losers than winners for Southern Ocean marine life in a warmer future.

biodiversity loss species composition Southern Ocean

A study of the marine invertebrates living in the seas around Antarctica reveals there will be more ‘losers’ than ‘winners’ over the next century as the Antarctic seafloor warms. The results are published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

A team at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) examined the potential distribution of over 900 species of shelf-dwelling marine invertebrates under a warming scenario produced by computer models. The authors used the known distributions of 963 benthic species with ≥20 records, from <1,000 m depth, from south of 40 °S. The records came from the SCAR Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean & OBIS. The climate models used were an ensemble of 19 different models from the CMIP5 database of mean seafloor temperatures for 2099 under the IPCC RCP8.5 scenario (the most extreme of all the scenarios where emissions continue to rise throughout the 21st century).

Southern Ocean seafloor water temperatures are projected to warm by an average of 0.4 °C over this century with some areas possibly increasing by as much as 2°C. The team conclude that, while some species in some areas will benefit, within the current century, warming temperatures alone are unlikely to result in wholesale extinction or invasion affecting Antarctic seafloor life. However, 79% of Antarctica’s endemic species do face a significant reduction in suitable temperature habitat (an average 12% reduction). Their findings highlight the species and regions most likely to respond significantly (negatively and positively) to warming and have important implications for future management of the region.

Reference: Griffiths, Huw J., Andrew JS Meijers, and Thomas J. Bracegirdle. "More losers than winners in a century of future Southern Ocean seafloor warming." https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate3377.

Counting seals with drones and thermal imagery

species population UAV OBIS data

Marine megafauna populations are challenging to assess, thanks to their cryptic nature and patchy availability to many forms of remote sensing. The Duke University Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing lab (MaRRS) strives to advance marine wildlife assessment methodology by fusing unoccupied aerial vehicles (UAV), advanced sensor packages and computer vision algorithms. This combination promises to improve the efficiency, economy and safety for surveys that are often tedious and dangerous for those that conduct them in remote parts of the world.

In the spring of 2015, the MaRRS lab conducted surveys over two grey seal breeding colonies in Nova Scotia using a small fixed-wing UAV called an “ebee”, taking pictures of the colonies with standard RGB and thermal cameras mounted in the belly of the aircraft. In the thermal images, seal pups and adults showed up as hot “blips” on a frigid background of ice and frozen earth, presenting an ideal opportunity to compare how humans and automated machine learning approaches detect and count animals in remotely-sensed data. The MaRRS lab computer vision algorithm proved extremely accurate, yielding total seal counts only 2% different than manual counts by humans, even tackling a long-time hurdle in automated detection by consistently discriminating seals within closely packed “piles”.

The above case study is widely applicable to species that seasonally aggregate on land, particularly pinnipeds and colonial seabirds. UAVs, by their very nature, are capable of rapid deployment and can take advantage of temporal windows where weather is good and animals are visible on land. The MaRRS computer vision algorithm operates in the common program ArcMap (ESRI), and is designed for quick modification to apply to other pinnipeds and even entirely different genera. This type of flexible and easily-modifiable model design is critical for practical applications in wildlife management. Algorithm development is time consuming and if time must be taken to extensively retrain a model for each new dataset, many advantages in efficiency are lost over traditional, manual-counting methods.

As UAVs proliferate and more data is collected, analysis becomes a bottleneck for getting relevant information to resource managers and decision makers. Combining UAVs with computer vision is a way to stay ahead of the curve and ensure that big data is an advantage and not a stumbling-block for wildlife management.

In total, 3,355 grey seals were counted in this case study led by Alexander Seymour and his team at the Duke University Marine Laboratory, North Carolina, USA and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The locations of the identified grey seals are available through the OBIS web site titled “Atlantic grey seal breeding colonies in Hay and Saddle Islands, Nova Scotia” at http://iobis.org/explore/#/dataset/4534. The more detailed information, georeferenced RGB pictures and thermal images are available through the OBIS-SEAMAP web site at http://seamap.env.duke.edu/dataset/1462.

Reference: Seymour, A., Dale, J., Hammill, M., Halpin, P and Johnston, D. 2017. Automated detection and enumeration of marine wildlife using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and thermal imagery. Scientific Reports. 7: 45127. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep45127.

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