Environmental Management

, Volume 55, Issue 6, pp 1446–1456 | Cite as

Can a Rapid Underwater Video Approach Enhance the Benthic Assessment Capability of the National Coastal Condition Assessment in the Great Lakes?

  • Julie E. LietzEmail author
  • John R. Kelly
  • Jill V. Scharold
  • Peder M. Yurista


Over 400 sites were sampled in the nearshore of the U.S. Great Lakes during the U.S. National Coastal Condition Assessment (NCCA) field survey in summer 2010. Underwater video images were recorded in addition to routine NCCA benthic assessment measures. This paper has two objectives: (1) to develop a process to evaluate video performance with acceptance criteria, exploring reasons for poor images, and (2) to use acceptable videos in an example application with invasive mussels, evaluating the enhancement potential of video to supplement traditional grab sampling. A standard hierarchical protocol was developed to rank video performance based on quality and clarity. We determined controllable and uncontrollable factors affecting video performance. Moreover, specific thresholds limiting video were identified: >0.5/m for light extinction and >3.5 µg/L for chlorophyll a concentration. To demonstrate the utility and enhancement potential of video sampling, observed dreissenid presence from excellent (221 of 362 videos) videos was compared with NCCA benthic taxonomy, in the context of the statistically based NCCA survey. Including video increased the overall area estimate of the U.S. Great Lakes nearshore with invasive mussels by about 15 % compared to PONAR alone; 44 % (7570 km2) of the surveyed region had mussels. The proportion of the nearshore area having mussels varied from low (3.5 %) in Lake Superior to >50 % in the lower lakes. PONAR and video have unique strengths and weaknesses as sampling tools in the Great Lakes nearshore environment, but when paired were complimentary and thus provided a more thorough benthic condition assessment at lake and regional scales.


Underwater video National coastal condition assessment Benthic condition Dreissenid mussels PONAR 



We thank scientists at the U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development—specifically, Will Bartsch (ORISE Participant) and Tim Corry at the Mid-Continent Ecology Division (Duluth), Tony Olsen and Tom Kincaid at the Western Ecology Division (Corvallis), and John Kiddon at the Atlantic Ecology Division (Narragansett)—for support on various aspects of the frame development, survey design, field pilot survey and camera testing, and crew training. Many of these folks generously offered assistance with some aspect of data management and analysis, including statistical summaries/analysis of this initial NCCA for the Great Lakes. John Kiddon performed the K d calculations for the Great Lakes data presented here. John McCauley at the Gulf Ecology Division (Gulf Breeze, FL) Greg Collianni (OW), and Tony Olsen were critical, helping to motivate and include the NCCA-Great Lakes effort. We thank EPA’s Office of Water (OW), specifically Greg Collianni, Sarah Lehmann, Treda Grayson, and Hugh Sullivan, as well as their OW Contractors, and numerous staff from the Great Lakes States who coordinated and/or conducted the extensive field sampling in 2010, including collection of the video images. Contractors to OW completed the taxonomic analyses and water quality analyses we used for comparison with video results. Mari Nord at EPA Region 5 has been a great liaison between ORD research efforts and the collection/use of the data by Great Lakes States in Regions 2, 3, and 5. Paul Horvatin, Paul Bertram, Glenn Warren, and Beth Hinchey Malloy at the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO)/Region 5 were instrumental in helping to develop and maintain the relationship between ORD, the Regions, OW and the States as a strong partnership to adopt the NCCA approach in surveying the Great Lakes nearshore; they also were key in securing Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to make possible the Great Lakes 2010 enhancements, including the underwater video tool evaluated here. Beth kindly offered review comments of a draft of the manuscript. Julie (Barker) Lietz was an ORISE participant at EPA, during which she conducted the video analysis and developed the standard processing/rating protocols presented in this study. This work was supported in part by an appointment to the ORISE participant research program supported by an interagency agreement between EPA and DOE (IA 92298301); the views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. EPA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie E. Lietz
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • John R. Kelly
    • 1
  • Jill V. Scharold
    • 1
  • Peder M. Yurista
    • 1
  1. 1.Mid-Continent Ecology Division, National Health and Environmental Effects Research LaboratoryU.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and DevelopmentDuluthUSA
  2. 2.ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education) ParticipantOak RidgeUSA

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