Unoccupied aerial video (UAV) surveys as alternatives to BRUV surveys for monitoring elasmobranch species in coastal waters

Ashlie J. McIvor, Julia L.Y. Spaet, Collin T. Williams, Michael L. Berumen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Effective conservation strategies are founded by baseline information on abundance and diversity estimates. Method choice can influence the success of baseline surveys as method performance is variable and needs to be selected based on habitat and taxa. Here, we assess the suitability of unoccupied aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys, specifically multi-rotor "drones", and baited remote underwater video (BRUV) surveys in shallow-water habitats to quantify elasmobranch abundance and diversity in the Saudi Arabian central Red Sea. Our results show that the number of elasmobranchs h-1 observed using UAV surveys exceeded that of BRUV surveys by two orders of magnitude, indicating that the increased spatial coverage of UAV surveys is beneficial for long-term monitoring projects. BRUV surveys detected a greater number of species within reef habitats, whereas UAV surveys detected a greater number of species within sandflat habitats, indicating the value of multi-method approaches for regional biodiversity studies. Here, we provide the first insight into elasmobranchs associated with sandflat habitats in Saudi Arabia, emphasising the importance of these habitats to stingrays and the need for further information on elasmobranch habitat use to better inform management and conservation efforts in the face of rapid coastal developments across the Red Sea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1604-1613
Number of pages10
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to the members of Reef Ecology Lab for their assistance, notably Alexander Kattan,Walter A. Rich, and Charlotte Young for their assistance in the field; Royale Hardenstine for initial discussions; and to Ute Langer, GIS Specialist, for preparing the map. Three anonymous reviewers are thanked for their valuable comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.


  • biodiversity
  • coral reef
  • drones
  • rays
  • Red Sea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • sharks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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