New Interactive Visualizations Show Sanctuary Data

At one of the first MBON meetings in 2015, Jenn Brown, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) and Steve Gittings, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) gave the MBON researchers an overview of questions which form the Sanctuary Condition Report, and discussed challenges that managers have accessing data to monitor status and support decision making.

While advanced researchers are the targeted users of the MBON portal, Brown proposed the idea of creating a product which uses interactive visualizations to answer specific questions in the Sanctuary Condition Reports. The objective was to enable a broader range of people – from decision makers to educators and engaged citizens – to easily identify species (or other targets) of interest, and, in one or two clicks, see a snap shot of current status and change over time.

The Sanctuaries MBON team is now developing these products, referred to as ‘infographics.” The first tools will focus on the following Sanctuary-habitat combinations: 1) Monterey Bay NMS pelagic habitat; 2) Florida Keys NMS coral reef habitat and, 3) Channel Islands NMS kelp forest habitat.

These interactive visualizations will use long-term datasets to show fish and marine mammal species and habitats. The interactive tools are being developed by Ben Best (EcoQuants) and are based on visual concepts created by Jenn Brown, MBNMS in collaboration with the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (Greg Williams and Su Kim). MBNMS/CINMS and recently integrated reviewer comments into updated versions of the conceptual models for the eight major habitats in MBNMS as well as an overview.

The team is conducting user review meetings through the summer and early fall. After the user feedback is incorporated, the MBON team will work with the Sanctuaries staff to make the infographic tools available on each of the Sanctuaries‘ websites. The infographic tools will begin providing support to dynamically-update sanctuary Condition Reports, which is a core goal of the Sanctuaries MBON project.


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FWRI completes new Ecopath with Ecosim Model of the Florida Reef Tract

Monitoring coral reefs from an ecosystem based management perspective presents a significant challenge to natural resource managers. Monitoring single species generally does not provide information on larger scale community dynamics such as competition and predation. On the other hand, deriving cogent information from all species simultaneously is often untenable.

Increasingly, ecosystem models are used to fill the gap between overly simple and unwieldy ecosystem indicators to synthesize complex interactions into fundamental structural and functional components that speak to the health of an ecosystem.  Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) is the most common ecosystem modeling framework for the marine environment, used by researchers in more than 150 countries.  Luke McEachron, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI/FWC), developed a new EwE model as part of the Sanctuaries MBON project to examine how marine protected areas, trophic interactions, habitat connectivity, and fishing pressure drive fish distributions and population trends throughout the Florida Reef Tract.

Methods: His team derived biomass data for 224 reef fish from the South Florida Reef Fish Visual Census (RVC) multi-agency program. Biomass data were aggregated into 19 trophic groups, per year from 1994 to 2012, and averaged over a 2,151 km2 area representing the sampling domain of the Florida Reef Tract from the Marquesas to Miami. Biomass for most non-fish trophic groups was estimated using EE values from existing regional food web models or estimates from existing literature (Thornhill et al. 2011, Hill et al. 2014).

Species we aggregated into trophic groups using diet, mobility, behavior, and taxonomy from a variety of sources. These factors were chosen to serve as a proxy for the ecological roles several species play in aggregate to achieve broad inference in terms of ecological function (e.g., Purkis et al. 2008). Production, consumption, mortality rates, and diet composition were derived from other Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean food web models (Opitz 1996, Venier and Pauly 1997, Walters et al. 2008, Chagaris 2013). The EwE model assumes the energy input and output of all living things must balance.

Results: The Florida Reef Tract is an efficient system that is a net producer, at least on an annual basis, with a positive production to respiration ratio. The amount of energy and carbon flowing through the food web and the system omnivory index (Christensen et al. 2008), a measure of the number of trophic levels consumers use in the system, is comparable to other Caribbean reefs.  By combining the omnivory index with other metrics, users can identify trophic groups that are disproportionately connected to other groups. The relative strength and scale of these interactions can be visualized as a traditional food web (Figure 1) or as a table (Figure 2).

While the total biomass of the system declined by ~2% from 1994 to 2000, the mean trophic level of the catch and the Q Index (a measure of ecosystem diversity) are absent a definitive negative trend (Figure 3); this pattern suggests the food web is not necessarily being “fished down” from higher trophic levels to lower trophic levels. As new data become available the model and indices can be appropriately updated to assess the general health of the ecosystem in any given year (e.g., using ongoing, annually recorded RVC data).

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FWRI Creates Open Data Platform and GIS Visualization Tool

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) is engaged in several MBON projects focused on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS). One of the major efforts conducted in 2016-207 was the collection and hosting of 40 datasets and their associated tables on FWC’s Open Data Platform. The datasets can be found by using the search term “MBON”.

The FRWI team continues to enhance the MBON-FKNMS JavaScript-based data viewer which is the agency’s main GIS visualization tool for the Florida Keys. The FRWI platform allows users to easily search, visualize, filter, download and create charts based on attributes (Bar, Donut, Line and Scatter Plot). The data viewer includes custom filters for selecting species within the Reef Visual Census (RVC) data (Figure 1) so stakeholders can look at changes in abundance for a single species. It also includes a new selection tool for acquiring statistics about the datasets and creating a new data layer based on the selection. The map data viewer is at version 2.2 of the ESRI Web App Builder (June 2017).

The Sanctuaries MBON project is developing and pilot testing several databases and visualization tools which meet the needs of different users. FWRI is engaging various internal departments and external stakeholders who have used the datasets for years in other formats. The FWRI GIS visualization tool enables FWRI/FWC analysts and administrators to rapidly assess multiple factors for inclusion in reports and identify potential areas for future monitoring or research initiatives. The open platform will enhance education and dialog with key industry stakeholders about species, fishing and area management programs. The Florida tool also helps build capacity within the state for using big data in environmental resource management and conservation.

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MBON Portal Adds Biodiversity Indices

In spring 2016, biodiversity indices were incorporated into the MBON portal developed by Axiom Data Science, a partner in the MBON project and Alaska IOOS. The pilot portal integrates multiple long-term species, habitat and environmental datasets for the MBON study areas in Alaska, California and Florida.

MBON portal enables researchers to map historical species datasets from the Florida Reef Visual Census (RVC), California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) program larval fish and egg surveys, and the Bering Arctic Subarctic Integrated Survey (BASIS), among others and layer other data.

Users are able to filter the species data by time, taxon, area, habitat (benthic class), etc., and recompute and graph the results through an intuitive online interface.  The portal aggregates and filters data in minutes, providing results which would otherwise take months to generate.

The biodiversity indices used in the US MBON portal include:

  • Alpha diversity: an index of biological diversity within a particular area or ecosystem, and is usually expressed by the number of species (i.e., species richness). By electing species within a particular group, researchers will generate consistent results. The tool calculates alpha diversity as the average of event values within the selected area;
  • Gamma diversity: a measure of the differences in alpha diversity between sampling sites;
  • Beta diversity: combines Gamma and Alpha.
  • Richness: a count of distinct species
  • % Dominance (Berger-Parker): the numerical importance of the most abundant species.
  • Shannon-Wiener Diversity index: quantifies the uncertainty associated with species prediction.
  • Pielou’s Evenness: quantifies how close in count each species is within a sampling event.

See Whittaker, R. H., 1972: Evolution and Measurement of Species Diversity. Taxon, 21, 213-251. doi:10.2307/1218190

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Workshop to Develop Data Products to Address SDG 14 Targets

On March 15-17, 2017, the Sanctuaries MBON team hosted a workshop in St. Petersburg, Florida, to define biodiversity data products that meet the needs of local coastal zone and conservation managers, and that can also can be scaled to address one or more of the targets of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 14.

“Our goal is to develop one or more products that are applicable from the local to global levels, meet the needs of questions of local coastal zone and conservation area managers, and that can be scaled to address one or more of the SDG 14 targets,” said Frank Muller-Karger, PI of the Sanctuaries MBON project.

At the 2.5 day workshop, participants defined scientific and user-functionality requirements and next steps for the development of interactive data products. Since early 2016, the MBON teams have been evaluating and enrolling numerous long-term biological, habitat and environmental datasets into NOAA ERDDAP and OBIS. This enables researchers and resource managers to access and visualize datatsets with dynamic mappers in the MBON portal to study ecosystem change over time.

“Analyzing the SDG 14 targets from multiple scientific and management perspectives was a crucial exercise. We hope the products we are developing will be useful to our GEO and other global partners, to help them meet national reporting requirements for the SDGs, among other things,” said Gabrielle Canonico, U.S. IOOS MBON program manager.

Participants included Gabrielle Canonico and Jennifer Bosch, U.S. IOOS, Abby Benson, OBIS, Roger Sayre, USGS, and Michael Soracco (NOAA Coast Watch/GEO Blue Planet). Sanctuaries MBON researchers included: Maria Kavanaugh (OSU / WHOI), Jennifer Brown (NOAA MBNMS), Ben Best (EcoQuants), Bob Currier (GCOOS), Mitchell Roffer (ROFFS), Collin Closek (Stanford University), Steve Gittings (NOAA Sanctuaries) George Sedberry (NOAA Sanctuaries) Chris Kelble (AOML – NOAA), Kathleen O’keife (FWRI), Luke McEachron, (FWRI) and Katherine Hubbard (FWRI). The USF CMS team included: Frank Muller-Karger, Anni Djurhuus, Enrique Montes, Daniel Otis, CJ Reynolds and graduate students Megan Hepner, Justin Saarinen and Natalie Sawaya.

The meeting was hosted by the University of South Florida and was sponsored by the NASA Applied Programs office of the Earth Sciences Division, the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the US Ocean Biogeographic Information System (US-OBIS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) including the National Marine Sanctuaries program, and the State of Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

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