A monitoring multi-tool for coral reef managers

As coral reefs decline, our dependency upon them for tourism, fishery production and social wellbeing grows. Confronted with competing values and a growing list of pressures on coral reefs, how are managers to identify the most effective interventions, prioritise their actions and allocate scarce resources? In September 2013, twenty one experts from the Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean and USA came together to address this need.

 Hosted by the Australia Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration and the Soufriere Marine Management Association, the international workshop took on the challenge of developing a prototype rapid assessment and monitoring protocol (a monitoring ‘multitool’) for addressing key information needs of coral reef managers - identifying key pressures, assessing ecological condition and understanding the flows of ecosystem benefits to people.

The Soufriere Marine Management Area and adjacent Piton Management Area were chosen as a case study, ensuring the concepts and approaches developed in the workshop were ground-truthed in a real-world situation.

The 5 day workshop involved a combination of presentations, discussions and fieldwork to share experiences and explore cutting-edge tools and approaches for assessing drivers, pressures, ecosystem health and impact (community wellbeing linked to reef ecosystem services).

The workshop featured an interactive, test-and-refine approach that enabled participants to fast-track the development and design of an integrated system for gathering management-relevant information. Three modules are under development as part of the integrated multitool:

  • The reef ecosystem health module is drawing on the innovative monitoring systems used in the Great Barrier Reef and the Caribbean, bringing together methods that can provide rapid assessments of key reef characteristics while being amenable to participation by reef stakeholders.
  • The social and economic module features a combination of secondary data, key informant surveys and household surveys techniques. It is being designed to collect information about drivers and ecosystem services relating to coral reefs, and also to provide lines of evidence to identify or corroborate direct observation of changes in reef health or pressures.
  • The pressures module is being developed as a key risk-screening step to help managers detect and evaluate risks to reef health from human activities (both on-water and in adjacent catchments). It will focus on using key informants and easily-accessible secondary data to provide a first-pass assessment of status and trends in key pressures.

The prototype multi-tool, available for trials by April 2014, will help managers design management strategies, respond to incidents (hurricanes, ship groundings, etc) and evaluate effectiveness of management actions. Learn more about the multi-tool project here.