A comparative study of methods for surface area and threedimensional shape measurement of coral skeletons

C. J. Veal, G. Holmes, M. Nunez, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, and J. Osborn

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 8:241-253 (2010) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2010.8.241

ABSTRACT: The three-dimensional morphology and surface area of organisms such as reef-building corals is central to their biology. Consequently, being able to detect and measure this aspect of corals is critical to understanding their interactions with the surrounding environment. This study explores six different methods of three-dimensional shape and surface area measurements using the range of morphology associated with the Scleractinian corals: Goniopora tenuidens, Acropora intermedia, and Porites cylindrica. Wax dipping; foil wrapping; multi-station convergent photogrammetry that used the naturally occurring optical texture for conjugate point matching; stereo photogrammetry that used projected light to provide optical texture; a handheld laser scanner that employed two cameras and a structured light source; and X-ray computer tomography (CT) scanning were applied to each coral skeleton to determine the spatial resolution of surface detection as well as the accuracy of surface area estimate of each method. Compared with X-ray CT, wax dipping provided the best estimate of the surface area of coral skeletons that had external corallites, regardless of morphological complexity. Foil wrapping consistently showed a large degree of error on all coral morphologies. The photogrammetry and laserscanning solutions were effective only on corals with simple morphologies. The two techniques that used projected lighting were both subject to skeletal light scattering, caused by both gross morphology and meso-coral architecture and which degraded signal triangulation, but otherwise provided solutions with good spatial resolution. X-ray CT scanning provided the highest resolution surface area estimates, detecting surface features smaller than 1000 ┬Ám2.