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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 Monitoring Program?

What does Coral Reef Monitoring look like for the future?

Why Monitor Coral Reefs?

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.

What is Coral Reef Monitoring?

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.

What are ReefKeeper's Survey Methods?

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 are noted.

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 monitored site.

What is ReefKeeper's Calculation Method?

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 point.

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:

  • hard coral % = {(hard coral data points) x 100} / total transect data points
  • hard coral % = (11) x (100) / 97
  • hard coral % = 11.3%
  • 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:

  • site A algae % cover = (24+17+27) / 3
  • site A algae % cover = 22.6%
  • 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:

  • coral stress index = (5 X 100) / 31
  • coral stress index = 16%
  • 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.

    How do Cooperative Agreements Help Make
    Locally-Controlled Action Happen?

    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.

    What can Divers, Groups,
    and Dive Operators do to help?

    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 information.

    Who is Involved Thus Far
    with ReefKeeper's Monitoring Program?

    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 efforts.

    Groups and organizations are encouraged to become part of this effort in existing monitor locations or other at-risk coral reef sites.

    For a complete listing of currently involved groups and organizations, see Reef Monitoring Sites and Partners.

    What Does ReefKeeper's Coral Reef
    Monitoring Look Like for the Future?

    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.

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