The Crystal Floor: Discovering the wonderful underwater biodiversity
Author: Laura Vanopdenbusch.
Caño Island, a beautiful biological reserve 20 km off of the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, is a biodiversity hotspot. Hosting the highest diversity of corals of the Pacific of Costa Rica, this island is also located in a sea current. It brings many large mammals to the area throughout the year and various sharks and rays. These are among the reasons why Innoceana started marine conservation projects there three years ago and continues to learn, share, and protect this vibrant ecosystem today.
Amongst many conservation projects, Innoceana has always focused on Coral Reefs. Indeed, we have already lost 32% of the planet’s coral reefs, and the scientific community agrees that we could lose another 35% in the next 10 to 40 years. Coral reefs are essential in many ways: They protect coastlines from storms and erosion.
They are an essential food source because they provide habitat and nursery grounds for many fish and other invertebrate species.
They are a source of new medicines and hotspots of marine biodiversity.
Coral species are threatened and face extinction due to climate change and human activity. It’s difficult to visualize these effects because the Ocean does not change or reflect this damage from the surface. However, coral colonies are slowly dying, and with them, ocean life. Studying the corals, their evolution, and their threats is as imperative as protecting them.
This is why Innoceana created a new project called The Crystal Floor. It uses 3D models of the coral reefs to show us a glimpse of the Ocean’s future through the crystal water. Using an existing low-cost technology of photogrammetry, Innoceana creates visual 3D models of coral colonies, providing valuable information on their health and recording the reef’s changes and evolution over time. Moreover, The Crystal Floor brings the Ocean to the public through visual and interactive models. Many don’t have the opportunity to observe coral reefs in their natural environment and don’t understand the threats corals face.
Educating locals, children, and tourists on what a coral is, its role and importance for the whole ecosystem is primordial.
Discovering the wonderful underwater biodiversity
Last year, local guides discussed a strange underwater sphere around Caño Island that could be a pre-Columbian stone sphere of the Díquis. The Innoceana team decided to create a 3D model of this sphere to observe and analyze it in depth.
They realized that they had previously seen this sphere in the magazine National Geographic in an article about women in the industry. It was an old buoy from the industrial era and is now part of the underwater scenery as coral colonies are growing over it. This discovery proves that the protocol used for The Crystal Floor project works not only for coral reefs, but could also be used for archaeological studies and more. Link to The Crystal Floor Gallery
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