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dc.contributor.authorPiechaud, Nils
dc.contributor.authorHowell, Kerry

With growing anthropogenic pressure on deep-sea ecosystems, large quantities of data are needed to understand their ecology, monitor changes over time and inform conservation managers. Current methods of image analysis are too slow to meet these requirements. Recently, computer vision has become more accessible to biologists, and could help address this challenge. In this study we demonstrate a method by which non-specialists can train a YOLOV4 Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) able to count and measure a single class of objects. We apply CV to the extraction of quantitative data on the density and population size structure of the xenophyophore Syringammina fragilissima, from more than 58,000 images taken by an AUV 1200 m deep in the North-East Atlantic. The workflow developed used open-source tools, cloud-base hardware, and only required a level of experience with CV commonly found among ecologists. The CNN performed well, achieving a recall of 0.84 and precision of 0.91. Individual counts per image and size measurements resulting from model predictions were highly correlated (0.96 and 0.92, respectively) with manually collected data. The analysis could be completed in less than 10 days thus bringing novel insights into the population size structure and fine scale distribution of this Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem. It showed S. fragilissima distribution is patchy. The average density is 2.5 ind.m−2 but can vary from up to 45 ind.m−2 only a few tens of meter away from areas where it is almost absent. The average size is 5.5 cm and the largest individuals (>15 cm) tend to be in areas of low density. This study demonstrates how researchers could take advantage of CV to quickly and efficiently generate large quantitative datasets data on benthic ecosystems extent and distribution. This, coupled with the large sampling capacity of AUVs could bypass the bottleneck of image analysis and greatly facilitate future deep-ocean exploration and monitoring. It also illustrates the future potential of these new technologies to meet the goals set by the UN Ocean Decade.

dc.subjectBenthic ecology
dc.subjectComputer vision
dc.subjectQuantitative ecology
dc.subjectAutomated image analysis
dc.subjectMarine conservation
dc.titleFast and accurate mapping of fine scale abundance of a VME in the deep sea with computer vision
dc.typeJournal Article
plymouth.journalEcological Informatics
plymouth.organisational-group/Plymouth/Faculty of Science and Engineering
plymouth.organisational-group/Plymouth/Faculty of Science and Engineering/School of Biological and Marine Sciences
plymouth.organisational-group/Plymouth/REF 2021 Researchers by UoA
plymouth.organisational-group/Plymouth/REF 2021 Researchers by UoA/UoA07 Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences
plymouth.organisational-group/Plymouth/Research Groups
plymouth.organisational-group/Plymouth/Research Groups/Marine Institute
plymouth.organisational-group/Plymouth/Users by role
plymouth.organisational-group/Plymouth/Users by role/Academics
plymouth.organisational-group/Plymouth/Users by role/Researchers in ResearchFish submission
dc.rights.embargoperiodNot known
rioxxterms.typeJournal Article/Review
plymouth.funderInfluence of population connectivity on depth-dependent diversity of deep-sea marine benthic biota::NERC

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