Designing a Monitoring Plan

The coral reefs of Palau are part of a massive interconnected system that ties together Micronesia and the Western Pacific. Photo © Ian Shive

Monitoring is designed to detect or measure change of coral reef organisms over time. The five key steps of a monitoring plan include: 

01 Icon Setting Objectives

1: Setting Objectives:

Managers should decide what information is required to support their management goals. The purpose of a monitoring plan will guide the selection of variables that need to be included. 

02 Icon Selecting Variables

2: Selecting Variables

The most cost-effective monitoring plans focus on variables that indicate trends in system characteristics that are of interest to managers and trigger management responses. These may focus on ecosystem components (e.g., populations, species, communities, water quality) and processes (e.g., recruitment, ocean currents, growth rates).

03 Icon Establishing Thresholds and Triggers

3: Establishing Thresholds and Triggers

Results of monitoring programs should be compared to values that represent thresholds of ecological or social concern. When monitoring results indicate that thresholds have been reached, appropriate management responses may be triggered. The threshold may be as simple as presence/absence of a variable or include different levels of impact.  

04 Icon Choosing Monitoring Methods

4: Choosing Monitoring Methods

The methods selected should provide a robust and reliable assessment of the selected variables and should be appropriate to the capacity, resource constraints, and operational conditions of the people and institutions undertaking the monitoring. 

05 Icon Deciding on a Sampling Design

5: Deciding on a Sampling Design

The type and location of the sites chosen for a monitoring program will be determined by the objectives of the monitoring program and the resources available. 

After developing a plan based on the above steps, it is important to consider the resources and needs available to implement the monitoring plan including financial, technical expertise, and capacity. A monitoring plan is an important tool and can help a manager think through various aspects of monitoring design that might not have been considered otherwise including the design of long-term monitoring programs. 

Researchers tagging corals at Palmyra Atoll. Photo © Tim Calver

After developing a plan based on the above steps, it is important to consider the resources and needs available to implement the monitoring plan including financial, technical expertise, and capacity. A monitoring plan is an important tool and can help a manager think through various aspects of monitoring design that might not have been considered otherwise including the design of long-term monitoring programs. 

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