Conclusions from the UNEP/IUCN Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) report, Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs 1970-2012, pointed out several limitations of the coral reef monitoring conducted in the Caribbean and, in particular, it highlighted the inconsistency in application of common monitoring methods and approaches throughout the region.
Indeed, to date, monitoring programmes often collect non-overlapping types of data, or the efforts have limited comparibility for describing similar aspects of the reef ecosystem. There is thus a great value in coordinating and standardizing future monitoring efforts, in order to provide regular strategic reporting .
To this end, the GCRMN-Caribbean proposes minimum as well as prefered coral reef monitoring guidelines for ecological and socioeconomic data collection. These methods were drafted using the experience and lessons learned from long term and well vetted scientific protocols, and seek to provide a compromise between practical applicability and ease of comparison between existing methods and long-term datasets.
The GCRMN-Caribbean baseline scientific monitoring methods provide a basic framework for existing and developing monitoring programs to contribute data that support a regional understanding of status and trends of Caribbean coral reefs. The purpose of this collaborative effort is to collect, collate and report on reef monitoring data that will be widely available for a variety of purposes including: contributing to our understanding of the processes that shape coral reefs; providing actionable advice to policy makers, stakeholders, and communities at a variety of special scales from local to Caribbean wide
The proposed set of parameters and data collection techniques for ecological monitoring are detailed in the joint document, and are meant to be used by GCRMN-Caribbean members.
* this document has been endorsed in September 2016, after several rounds of review
The methods describe six elements of the coral reef ecosystem –
(1) abundance and biomass of key reef fish taxa,
(2) relative cover of reef-building organisms (corals, coralline algae) and their dominant competitors,
(3) assessment of coral health
(4) recruitment of reef-building corals,
(5) abundance of key macro-invertebrate species,
6) water quality.
The associated methods are organized into three sections, labeled as Level 1 (minimum standard), Level 2 (recommended) and Level 3 (highly recommended). Regular analysis of data and reporting will support and better inform local coral reef management and conservation efforts. By regularly collecting information about these elements across multiple locations, it will be possible to more knowingly describe the status of coral reef health in the Caribbean at any given time, as well as to provide likely future trajectories.
Socio economical monitoring
Coral reef scientists and coastal resource managers are increasingly coming to the realization that coastal resources can not be effectively managed if biophysical scientific monitoring is the only focus.It is important that systematic monitoring of social science indicators be implemented in conjunction with biophysical monitoring, in order to enhance the ability to make connections and inferences between observed changes in the coral reef ecosystem quality and human and social parameters.
The integration of socio-economic data in monitoring coral reefs is under development in the Caribbean region, but has not been implemented in a regular and sustainable manner. The GCRMN recognized the need for collecting socio-economic data in coral reef and coastal areas from 2000.
The development of Socio-economic Manual for Coral Reef Management was intended to improve the understanding of the social and economic conditions, contexts and motivations associated with the use of coral reef ecosystem.
By promoting its socioeconomic guidelines, the GCRMN-Caribbean renewed this commitment to foster integrated coral reef monitoring, both biophysical and human’s that impact the coral reefs. The model proposed will allow for collection of socio-economic data readily available from secondary data or observation without the need for significant human or financial investment from people on the ground.
The GCRMN-Caribbean Socioeconomic monitoring Guidelines and indicators are available below. In addition we encourage you to also consult the Socioeconomic Monitoring Guidelines for Coastal Managers in the Caribbean for details on field methods.