Colony-Level 3D Photogrammetry Reveals That Total Linear Extension and Initial Growth Do Not Scale With Complex Morphological Growth in the Branching Coral, Acropora cervicornis
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Colony-Level 3D Photogrammetry Reveals That Total Linear Extension and Initial Growth Do Not Scale With Complex Morphological Growth in the Branching Coral, Acropora cervicornis

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  • Journal Title:
    Frontiers in Marine Science
  • Description:
    The ability to quantify changes in the structural complexity of reefs and individual coral colonies that build them is vital to understanding, managing, and restoring the function of these ecosystems. However, traditional methods for quantifying coral growth in situ fail to accurately quantify the diversity of morphologies observed both among and within species that contribute to topographical complexity. Three-dimensional (3D) photogrammetry has emerged as a powerful tool for the quantification of reefscape complexity but has yet to be broadly adopted for quantifying the growth and morphology of individual coral colonies. Here we debut a high-throughput method for colony-level 3D photogrammetry and apply this technique to explore the relationship between linear extension and other growth metrics in Acropora cervicornis. We fate-tracked 156 individual coral transplants to test whether initial growth can be used to predict subsequent patterns of growth. We generated photographic series of fragments in a restoration nursery immediately before transplanting to natural reef sites and re-photographed coral at 6 months and 1 year post-transplantation. Photosets were used to build 3D models with Agisoft Metashape, which was automated to run on a high-performance computing system using a custom script to serially process models without the need for additional user input. Coral models were phenotyped in MeshLab to obtain measures of total linear extension (TLE), surface area, volume, and volume of interstitial space (i.e., the space between branches). 3D-model based measures of TLE were highly similar to by-hand measurements made in the field (r = 0.98), demonstrating that this method is compatible with established techniques without additional in water effort. However, we identified an allometric relationship between the change in TLE and the volume of interstitial space, indicating that growth in higher order traits is not necessarily a linear function of growth in branch length. Additionally, relationships among growth measures weakened when comparisons were made across time points, implying that the use of early growth to predict future performance is limited. Taken together, results show that 3D photogrammetry is an information rich method for quantifying colony-level growth and its application can help address contemporary questions in coral biology.
  • Source:
    Front. Mar. Sci. 8:646475
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  • Rights Information:
    CC BY
  • Compliance:
    Submitted
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