Monitoring and Assessments
The ideal approach to assessing coral diseases and their impacts, given sufficient funding and qualified personnel, is a well designed, integrated, multi-component survey. This type of survey can provide the following information:
- community and/or ecosystem-level data on benthic organisms
- water quality
- environmental parameters and the human dimension
- disease components at different spatial and temporal scales
This approach allows assessment of coral reef community structure and function, temporal changes, and potential links between assessed parameters that might be responsible for observed changes in reef condition. It is important to understand that significant correlations between disease prevalence and environmental and/or biological factors do not prove causality. Two main approaches are used to assess disease impacts:
- Rapid assessments that characterize the reef areas surveyed. This is useful for comparing multiple sites or different time periods.
- Monitoring that detects changes over time within the same survey area. The purpose is to estimate changing variables.
Both protocols should seek to answer specific questions about the area, including the following:
- Are coral diseases present? Which ones?
- What species are affected?
- Are there reefs, reef zones or reef areas that are more affected than others?