Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 107–118 | Cite as

Remote sensing of intertidal habitats predicts West Indian topsnail population expansion but reveals scale-dependent bias

  • Erin L. MeyerEmail author
  • Nicholas J. Matzke
  • Simon J. Williams


High-resolution imagery is lacking for much of the West Indies, impeding accurate intertidal habitat assessments and conservation planning. The West Indian topsnail, which inhabits rocky shores, is an important, regional fishery. It was overfished to extinction in Bermuda but reintroduced in 1982. In this study, we estimate potential population size through habitat mapping using high-resolution imagery and ground-based survey data. We also test the effects of image resolution and map scale on intertidal habitat assessments. The coastline of Bermuda was mapped as a linear feature (1:500) using high-resolution imagery. Topsnail population size was predicted using length of preferred habitat and population density. With the comprehensive map as ground-truth, effects of scale were assessed in two ways: supervised classification of low-resolution imagery and progressive map scale coarsening (Douglas-Peuker simplification). Bermuda’s coastline is 296 km at this map scale, 50 % of which is rocky shore. Topsnail population could expand significantly if all preferred habitat is occupied. However, image resolution and map scale drastically affect mapping robustness. Unsurprisingly, automated classifiers poorly distinguished narrow intertidal habitats. More disturbingly, coarsening map scale differentially affected habitats. Fine-scale mapping enabled by high-resolution imagery is vital for intertidal conservation planning. Limitations of low-resolution imagery and scale-dependent biases are pertinent beyond intertidal habitats. Numerous predominantly linear habitats may be especially sensitive to sea-level rise and other effects of climate change, so careful consideration of the effects of scale on habitat assessments and the use of high-resolution imagery are strongly recommended.


Bermuda Cittarium pica Conservation biogeography Intertidal Remote sensing Scale dependence 



We thank C. Hickman, K. Coates, and J. Lipps for reviewing the manuscript. We also thank E. Waller and S. Lewis for helpful discussions and suggestions. E.L.M. would like to thank J. Arthur and P. Hopkins with the Bermuda Ministry of Environment, Planning and Infrastructure Strategy for providing the high-resolution image of Bermuda. E.L.M. would also like to thank the Bermuda Zoological Society, Houston Conchology Society, and Sigma-Xi for funding the fieldwork associated with this project. N.J.M. was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant DEB-0919451, a Wang Fellowship, and a Tien Fellowship.

Supplementary material

11852_2014_371_MOESM1_ESM.doc (180 kb)
Online Resource 1 Coastal outline of Bermuda broken into seven geographic regions for windward versus leeward delineation. (DOC 180 kb)
11852_2014_371_MOESM2_ESM.doc (8.6 mb)
Online Resource 2 Detailed methods and results (e.g., summary tables and confusion matrices) for 12 classification methods for supervised classification of the Bermuda coastline. (DOC 8780 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin L. Meyer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Nicholas J. Matzke
    • 1
    • 3
  • Simon J. Williams
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of California BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.California Ocean Science TrustOaklandUSA
  3. 3.National Institute for Mathematical and Biological SynthesisKnoxvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyUniversity of California BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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