A Global Database of Artificial Reefs: Mapping data needed to assess the conservation potential of artificial reefs
There is a pressing need for the development of global monitoring of wrecks as artificial reefs, in which aquariums can play a key role.
In a study by Species360 Conservation Science Alliance masters student Iglika Ilieva and led by Prof. Dalia Conde, researchers create a spatially explicit map of intentionally deployed artificial reefs. The map reflects the structure and year of deployment and life expectancy, together with distance to the closest Coral Reef, from the Coral Trait Database, its location with respect to the Worlds Protected Areas and key Standard Level Data from the World Ocean Database, as well as distance to potential conservation resources within Species360 member aquariums.
The study “A global database of intentionally deployed wrecks to serve as artificial reefs,” was published in Data in Brief in 2019. The results for this research are available from Species360 Conservation Science Alliance as part of our Open Data commitment: Open Data DIB_A global database of intentionally deployed wrecks to serve as artificial reefs.
In the last few decades the deployment of structures from large ships to cars and tires has increased with the goal to establish artificial reefs, in part because they are classified as essential fish habitats. Yet very little is known about the effectiveness of artificial reefs to increase biodiversity.
Today’s crisis of biodiversity of marine life, and limited resources available to mitigate species extinctions, there is an imperative need to prioritize conservation actions. The cost of deploying shipwrecks and other artificial reefs is significant. Deploying a vessel costs between $46,000 to $2 million US dollars, depending on the vessel’s size. Maintenance costs follow, for example maintaining the scuttled HMAS Brisbane in Australia is reported to be of approximately AU$200,000/year over 10 years.
Assessing the role of these structures in marine conservation is critical. The researchers developed a new database and foundation for launching studies of the success of wrecks as artificial reefs.
Applying analytics, researchers compare location, year of deployment, and types of structure. Data provided here are spatially explicit, contain the type and year of deployment of the structures, and their life expectancy, together with distance to the closest Coral Reef, from the Coral Trait Database, its location with respect to the Worlds Protected Areas and key Standard Level Data from the World Ocean Database.
Furthermore, researchers estimate the distance from a member institution of the Species360 network, so it can be used to inform in possible future repopulation programs based on captive bred populations and to promote citizen science to support the monitoring of artificial reefs.
Informing Global Species Conservation through OPEN DATA Research: This Conservation Science Alliance study is led by Prof. Dalia Conde with masters student Iglika Ilieva and completed in collaboration with Benjamin D. Best, Ph.D., Environmental Data Scientist and Founder, EcoQuants, and co-authors.