Why monitor coral reefs?
What is coral reef monitoring?
What are ReefKeeper's survey methods?
What is ReefKeeper's calculation method?
How do cooperative agreements help make
locally-controlled action happen?
What can divers, groups, and dive
operators do to help?
Who is involved thus far with ReefKeeper's
What does Coral Reef Monitoring look
like for the future?
If you don't monitor the oil level in your car's engine, sooner
or later you're going to be out of oil and out of an engine. This
analogy strongly applies to coral reefs, and that's why ReefKeeper
International emphasizes coral reef monitoring. There's really
no other way to catch problems before they become catastrophic,
or even better yet, before they begin, than by having the data
to make a case against a reef-threatening coastal development.
The concept of global coral reef monitoring has been discussed
for many years. The overall objective is to gather high-quality
and widely distributed data on reef status and to determine long-term
trends resulting from global climate change and anthropogenic
stress, to assist effective management and conservation, and to
determine the potential of reefs and reef organisms as early warning
indicators of global change.
Coral reefs around the world are threatened by over-fishing, coastal
development, sewage, runoff from agriculture and logging, and
many other causes.
To identify site-specific causes for this degradation and develop
solutions, scientists and volunteers from the worldwide diving
community are aiding in diagnosing the condition of representative
reefs throughout the tropical seas.
Reef monitoring is the gathering of data to document basic
coral reef cover and watchdog specific significant coral reef
sites for changes in coral health, coral cover, and other key
early warning signs of environmental impact. To be effective,
this monitoring needs to be performed at periodic intervals at
each monitored site.
Coral reef monitoring information can make possible efficient
management and long-term conservation.
ReefKeeper's Reef Monitoring Program documents basic reef coral
cover and watchdogs specific significant coral reef sites for
changes in coral health, coral cover, and other key early warning
signs of environmental impact. The gathered data is analyzed and
published as reports and other public awareness tools for use
by local groups in their conservation efforts.
ReefKeeper's reef monitoring model includes replicate (2) 50-meter
point-intercept line transects for 3 reef zones designated as
the inshore zone (three meters depth), the terrace zone (seven
meters depth), and the shelf-edge zone (ten meters depth).
At each reef zone studied, 2 separate 50-meter transects are laid
using factory-marked fiberglass transect tape that follows the
designated depth contour for the reef zone site.
Point-intercept bottom cover surveys are conducted along each
transect, with bottom type data being noted at half-meter intervals
along the full 50 meters of the transect, thus producing 100 bottom
cover data points for each transect. In addition, all stony coral
species found along the full continuous length of each transect
A photo record of each transect is made with photos taken every
4 meters. A continuous video record of each transect is also made.
This monitoring procedure is repeated every 3 months at each
Percent Bottom Cover: Results are calculated for each
transect using simple percentage calculations. This is made even
simpler because our transects are designed to cover a total of
100 data points; thus each data point corresponds to one percentage
However because sometimes data is not recorded for all 100
transect data points, routine percentage calculations should be
carried out based on the actual number of data points recorded
for the transect.
First, count and tabulate the data points by bottom cover category.
For each tabulated category, divide the number of category data
points by the total number of data points for the transect and
multiply the result by 100. Thus, for 11 hard coral data points
on a transect with 97 data points, the calculation is:
To report percent bottom covers for monitoring sites, calculate
and report the average of all transects done for the site. Thus,
if 3 transects were run on site A with algae percent cover results
of 24%, 17%, and 27%, the reported result for site A for the time
period in question is:
Variances are calculated using standard methods.
Coral Stress Index: Using the same percentage calculation
method, we report the percent of hard coral colonies showing signs
of sickness or stress.
For each transect, add together all recorded data points for
the sick, bleached dying, or damaged hard coral heads. Divide
this total by the total number of hard coral colonies recorded
for the transect and multiply the result by 100. Thus, if a transect
shows 5 stressed coral colonies out of a total 31 hard coral data
points, the coral stress index is:
To report the coral stress index for a monitoring site, average
together the results for all transects done at the site, using
the same method described under percent bottom cover.
Species Richness: Species richness is simply reported
as the total number of hard coral species recorded for a transect.
For a site overall, species richness is the cumulative total of
all species recorded for all transects at the site.
If local groups and citizens don't take ownership of their
nearby coral reefs, sooner or later those reefs are invariably
left open to environmental abuse. That's one reason why the monitoring
program emphasizes the building of capacity for coral reef conservation.
ReefKeeper International has found that follow-up and ongoing
action is required to maintain the momentum over time which is
needed to achieve desired coral reef protection objectives. The
cost-effective and empowering solution to this need for an ongoing
effort is to find a way for local people to take over and follow
through on what ReefKeeper begins. The vehicle to achieve that
is the Coral Reef Monitoring Cooperative Agreement.
Under this Agreement, ReefKeeper provides a local nonprofit conservation
group with training, monitoring equipment, materials, and supplies
that are replenished as each monitoring cycle is completed, data
analysis support, and publication assistance. The local group
provides on-site coordination, trained volunteer manpower, and
donated boat use to carry out quarterly coral reef monitoring
surveys. These reef monitors document basic reef coral cover and
watchdog specific significant coral reef sites for changes in
coral health, coral cover, and other key early warning signs of
environmental impact. The gathered data is sent to ReefKeeper,
where we analyze it and produce reports and other public awareness
tools for use by the local group in its conservation efforts.
Most significantly, these monitoring activities act as a deterrent,
serve as a catalyst for other local conservation action, and focus
attention on the value of these reef sites.
In order for ReefKeeper's Monitoring Program to be successful,
three things are needed to be able to monitor each prospective
site: 1) interested divers to be trained by ReefKeeper International
to perform the monitoring; 2) donated boat use to get the monitors
to these sites; and 3) a local group to sponsor and coordinate
the endeavor as a ReefKeeper Monitor Affiliate. Without these
three elements, the reef monitoring would not be possible.
ReefKeeper is always looking for individuals with a concern for
coral reefs who are interested in donating their time and resources
to assist in these efforts.
Interested groups can fill out the coral reef monitoring information
request / participation form to become involved or receive additional
ReefKeeper has entered into coral reef monitoring cooperative
agreements with several local non-governmental organizations (ngo's).
With ReefKeeper's logistical and organizational assistance, these
groups are following up our initial assessments with quarterly
monitoring that will be the foundation of their concerted conservation
Groups and organizations are encouraged to become part of this
effort in existing monitor locations or other at-risk coral reef
For a complete listing of currently involved groups and organizations,
see Reef Monitoring Sites and Partners.
ReefKeeper International will continue to support our existing
coral reef monitoring partners, and enter into similar agreements
with more local groups in Florida, Honduras, the US Virgin Islands,
Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Netherlands Antilles, and
other locations, to monitor key coral reef sites which are clearly
in the path of foreseeable developmental impact.