Our oceans feed one in four people on the planet every day. They produce 50% of the oxygen we breathe. They regulate the climate and make our planet habitable. They are integral to our very survival, yet for all of our reliance, they largely remain as they have always done, out of sight and out of mind. 95% hasn't even been seen by human eyes.
Understanding our oceans has never been more critical. Scientists are telling us they are in a rapid state of decline. However, monitoring change in ocean ecosystems has always been a challenge as there simply hasn't been the technology to conduct research on a meaningful scale.
The XL Catlin Seaview Survey presented a step-change in our understanding of the coral ecosystem. Over five years, the survey undertook a series of scientific expeditions around the globe using specially designed 360 degree cameras, to record and reveal the world’s oceans and reefs like never before. It has created an independent, baseline, scientific study to enable everyone to see change over time and plan for the future.
Working with scientists from the University of Queensland, the Survey began in 2012 with an icon of the ocean, the Great Barrier Reef, off Australia. Two expedition teams visited 20 representative reefs along the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, to research and record the shallow reef (0-12m) as well as the relatively unknown deep reef (from 30-100m).
Since 2012, the XL Catlin Seaview Survey team have studies reef systems in 26 countries, and more than 600,000 stitched images have been taken. These 360 degree photos are analysed and then uploaded to the XL Catlin Global Reef Record. This ‘state of the reef’ benchmark is made freely available to scientists around the world to monitor changes in marine environments. It will also provide valuable insights for more than 50 nations worldwide that have significant coral reefs along their coastlines.
This shallow reef survey was complemented by a deep reef research team. The deep reef is a little-explored environment. With poor light and issues of accessibility, there is little scientific knowledge relating to the reefs that lie between 30m and 100m depth. Yet this mesophotic or ‘twilight zone’ could well prove a critical element in the survival of coral reefs under rapid environmental change.
A combination of specialist deep sea divers and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) undertake a comprehensive survey of the coral communities at depth. Scientists utilise the same automated image recognition techniques as the shallow reef team. Accurate geo-positioning systems on the ROVs will allow the photographic surveys to be repeated to monitor change over time. Temperature data loggers will be deployed to provide better insight into the ability for the deep reef to act as a refuge from increased temperatures experienced by coral species on the shallow reef.
For more information visit xlcatlinseaviewsurvey.com.