Ecological Monitoring

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

A monitoring plan can also help managers determine what type of a monitoring program should be implemented. Below are three different types of monitoring programs:

Routine Monitoring

Routine monitoring is often used by coral reef managers to monitor the state of the reef through time, allowing them to establish baselines and detect changes. Examples of widely used routine monitoring programs include those developed by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network ( opens in a new windowGCRMN) and the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment ( opens in a new windowAGRRA).

Diver laying down a transect tape. Photo © Tim Calver

Responsive Monitoring

Responsive monitoring is used by managers to complement a routine monitoring program when reefs are impacted by acute disturbances such as bleaching, storm damage, ship groundings, and disease outbreaks. Managers often need to know the extent and severity of these acute impacts as soon after they occur. Responsive monitoring helps to ensure timely and credible communication with stakeholders and helps target management actions which support recovery. Developing a responsive monitoring program follows the same steps presented in the Designing a Monitoring Plan section, however decisions in each of these steps should be guided by the type and severity of the impact(s).

Monitoring restored fragments of Acropora cervicornis in the Florida Keys. Photo © Margaux Hein

Participatory Monitoring

Participatory monitoring programs involve non-expert observers – sometimes called citizen scientists – in monitoring activities. These monitoring activities may be led by scientists or managers or have observers monitoring reefs independently. Coral reef managers often use participatory monitoring programs to assess reef condition, disturbance detection, impact assessment following disturbances, and assessments of the effectiveness of management actions. Examples of participatory monitoring include the  opens in a new windowGreat Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Eye on the Reef Program and the  opens in a new windowEyes of the Reef Hawaii Program.

Citizen scientists at work in the water as part of the Eye on the Reef Program on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo © Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

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