Choosing a Protocol
The most appropriate protocol to use will depend on the aim of the monitoring program. There are two critical questions to ask which will help identify the monitoring protocol best suited to the needs of the site:
- What are the questions about the site that need answered?
- What are the available resources (e.g., financial capacity, expertise, equipment, etc.)?
Defining the Questions
Carefully framed questions provide the foundation and focus of monitoring programs. Here are some examples.
- What is the extent and severity of coral bleaching?
Several monitoring protocols are available to address this question. You should choose the option that best suits your available resources.
- How much coral died and/or recovered from the bleaching event?
Few coral reef monitoring protocols specifically address this question. One that does provide additional methods for monitoring coral reef recovery after major bleaching events is that of the Global Coral Reef Management Network (GCRMN).
One way to assess how much coral died as a result of a bleaching event is to perform repeated surveys on three occasions (using one of the methods described below), including:
- A baseline survey of coral communities prior to bleaching;
- A survey of the extent and severity of coral bleaching at the height of the bleaching event (usually one to three months after the onset of bleaching); and
- A survey six months after the bleaching event to determine how much coral survived or died as a result of bleaching.
- Has bleaching affected coral community composition?
This can be assessed using the survey methods described in 1 and 2 above, but requires some expertise in identifying species and/or groups of species (e.g., by growth form).
- Are there any areas that appear to be naturally resistant and/or resilient to coral bleaching?
This can be assessed by monitoring areas during and after bleaching events, to look for signs of recovery and places that did not bleach.
- What are the socioeconomic impacts of bleaching?
This can be assessed using one of the several socioeconomic survey methods available.
Some Example Protocols
|Resources Required||Monitoring Program||Information Provided||Recommendation|
|Low||Low (e.g., community and volunteer programs)||Reef Check||Provides limited information on the extent and severity of bleaching. Good for community involvement.||Use only if minimal resources are available.|
|Low to Moderate||Low to Moderate (e.g., government programs which include trained staff)||Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN)1||At present, this method does not specifically assess the extent and severity of coral bleaching. This program does provide methods for assessing recovery of coral communities after bleaching events.||Use jointly with A Global Protocol for Assessment of Coral Bleaching (see below)|
|Low to High||Low to High (everyone)||A Global Protocol for Assessment of Monitoring of Coral Bleaching||WorldFish Center (ReefBase Project), World Wildlife Fund, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are currently developing a protocol for the reporting and monitoring of bleaching events (see below). This standard protocol will facilitate collection of high quality data, and when applied widely, it will facilitate comparison between studies and sites. This will also serve the ongoing development of the ReefBase global database on coral bleaching events.||Since this method is being developed specifically to monitor and report on coral bleaching, it provides the best option for monitoring bleaching. Use jointly with GCRMN methods (see above).|
|High||High (professional scientists with a high degree of technical expertise)||Australian Institute of Marine Science Long Term Monitoring Program||This method provides an example of a monitoring program that provides more detailed information on the extent and severity of coral bleaching.||Recommended if high level of funding and expertise is available.|