ARMS Effective as Biodiversity Monitoring Tool

The surfaces and internal cavities of this Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure (ARMS), placed on the seabed by divers, provide habitat for colonizing reef flora and fauna. Data collected from the ARMS, analyzed by taxonomists and molecular biologists, will help long-term monitoring of coral reef biodiversity, particularly with respect to poorly known and cryptic species.

In early December, 2008, the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) hosted a Workshop on Analysis Protocols for Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS). The Honolulu meeting was part of the Census of Coral Reef Ecosystems (CReefs) project. ARMS were developed by CRED as a tool to systematically assess spatial patterns and monitor long-term trends in reef biodiversity, with a focus on poorly known cryptic invertebrate and microbial species.

During the workshop, scientists from the Smithsonian Institution, University of Florida, Australian Institute of Marine Science, San Diego State University, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (University of Hawaii), and CRED evaluated and tested methods to recover, sort, and process samples from ARMS and analyze them using mass parallel molecular sequencing and barcoding.

Preliminary results indicate that ARMS collect representative fauna with low intra-site variance, leaving CReefs partners optimistic that ARMS will be an efficient and effective tool for measuring coral reef biological communities and monitoring changes in biodiversity, including those caused by climate change and other forces, both natural and anthropogenic.

For more information contact: Rusty Brainard