This document can act as a guideline in the field. It can be used to check back on the exact methodology for each of the measurements. It is a part of the monitoring protocol developed by BonBèrdè for STINAPA. All necessary information to perform the fieldwork should be here. It is therefore advised to bring this document in the field every time while conducting the fieldwork. This field guide contains different steps, alongside other necessary information. Step A-B includes the activities for setting up the sample plots in the field. As the sample plots for this monitoring study are permanent, meaning they will be visited repeatedly, these steps do not have to be included in any consecutive years of monitoring. Steps 1-3 consist of the steps taken in regard to the measurements of the different factors. These steps are the actual data collection and form the main part of the monitoring. This monitoring location is in the Washington Slagbaai National Park (WSNP).
The Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) Program champions coral reef conservation and empowers those who protect these diverse ecosystems. We are an international collaboration of scientists, managers, and supporters aimed at improving the regional condition of reefs in the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. For 20 years, AGRRA has used an innovative regional approach to examine the condition of reef-building corals, algae and fishes and support the conservation of coral reef ecosystems. We curate and distribute data, research and educational materials that support this mission.
The AGRRA program began in 1997 by Dr. Robert N. Ginsburg – the guiding visionary force and mentor behind AGRRA’s efforts for 20 years. Collaborating with numerous colleagues, advisors and students, AGRRA has become a leading advocate for coral reef science and conservation. Dr. Ginsburg has led and supported AGRRA, through his foundation The Ocean Research and Education Foundation (ORE), inspiring new generations of ocean scientists, educators and conservationists.
AGRRA’s initial goals were to provide a standardized assessment of key structural and functional indicators that could be applied to reveal spatial and temporal patterns of regional reef condition. Priority was placed on conducting baseline assessments of remote reefs such as in Cuba, The Bahamas, Panama and Los Roques and on creating educational materials and leading training workshops for in-country partners around the Caribbean.
Since that time, we have collaborated with teams of scientific professionals and partners to fill many gaps, collectively conducted over 2,300 surveys, built one of the largest open-access public databases of coral reef condition, and contributed to numerous peer-reviewed publications and management plans.
A cornerstone of our program has been providing open-access to scientific data collected through our partner network. Over 2,300 surveys and 10,000’s of data scientific metrics of corals, fish, and key invertebrates have been collected throughout reefs in the Caribbean. The AGRRA data portal greatly improves the efficiency, transparency and reliability of data compilation and analysis. AGRRA has become a key source of scientific data used to inform reef policies, legislation, management and conservation.
AGRRA has developed a comprehensive set of visual training tools to help partners learn identification of key reef organisms, their role in reef health, and how to scientifically monitor, track and understand these systems. We strive to promote a learning platform through trainings, exchanges and education materials and to catalyze conservation impact through creative effective communication to wider audiences.
Our goals at AGRRA are to:
- 1. Conduct scientifically sound, comparable regional surveys of the health of coral reefs using a standardized method
- 2. Promote a collaborative learning platform through trainings, exchanges and open-access education materials
- 3. Advance our scientific understanding of coral reefs, analyze data results and provide easy data access with the AGRRA data platform and on-line data entry tools
- 4. Catalyze conservation impact through partnerships and creative effective communication to wider audiences.
Coral bleaching occurs when corals expel their symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, or when zooxanthellae expel their photosynthetic pigments during times of high environmental stress. The exact reason why corals bleach has not yet been determined, but it is theorized that a combination of multiple environmental stress factors is the cause. It is also possible that coral bleaching serves as an adaptive mechanism by allowing different types of zooxanthellae, which may be more stress-resistant than the original zooxanthellae, to colonize the coral. Temperature, salinity, over-sedimentation, anoxia, presence of pollutants, and high amounts of UV irradiation are all factors thought to contribute to bleaching. Extensive coral bleaching research has been conducted since the mass bleaching event of 1998, but there is no data on the frequency of coral bleaching on Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. This paper proposes a monitoring program that may be implemented to collect coral bleaching and recovery data on Bonaire’s reefs.
The Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Saba, St.Eustatius, Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The islands have a rich biological diversity and a variety of globally threatened ecosystems. These ecosystems are important for their services such as the production of food, coastal protection, tourism attraction, erosion control, medicine, carbon sequestration and climate change resilience, water and air purification and/or retention, and non-material benefits such as heritage and recreational experiences. Robust monitoring indicators are needed to assess ecosystem health in relation to environmental change and socio-economic stressors and exploitation.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands has ratified international treaties and conventions, signed regional agreements and implemented national law for the protection of nature and biodiversity in the Dutch Caribbean. These treaties call for reporting on status and trends of biodiversity.
Currently considerable effort is being invested in collecting baseline data and local monitoring to support local policy on and management of nature and biodiversity. These activities partially overlap with the demands of treaty reporting requests, but do not provide all the data necessary to satisfy the needs of either the reporting obligations or the local policy and management needs. The main issues are that:
• Existing monitoring programmes on the islands do not cover all required biodiversity and nature topics;
• Several existing monitoring programmes are based on methods that cannot be used to generate the indicators required.
This report concludes that monitoring all the separate species identified would require considerable resources. Monitoring in the Dutch Caribbean cannot be compared to the Netherlands which has a long history of monitoring the natural environment and many periodic reviews of the efficacy of monitoring techniques. Holistic monitoring of ecosystems using key indicators is a good alternative to detailed monitoring as the ecosystem health implicitly considers all dependent species. However, some additional species monitoring is necessary of keystone species, endangered species, commercially important species and invasive species.
It is recommended to :
- Keep supporting the foolowing current activities: Maintain existing monitoring on: turtle nests, coral, cover, shark and ray densities, flamingo counts, yellow-shouldered amazon roost counts and terns. Adjust the existing monitoring for: fish densities and population structure, bird species richness, red billed tropic bird, Lesser Antillean Iguana;
- Set up ecosystem/habitat monitoring;
- Set up vegetation monitoring;
- Link forest and migratory bird monitoring to vegetation monitoring;
- Link bird of prey monitoring to flamingo monitoring on Bonaire;
- Collect data on pressures and abiotic conditions from other sources ;
- Stimulate the use of volunteers for monitoring
The GCRMN 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 these methods is to collect data that will contribute to our understanding of the processes that shape coral reefs and to provide actionable advice to policy makers, stakeholders, and communities. In order to achieve these goals, the GCRMN community seeks to collect comprehensive and inter-comparable data that build from a modern scientific perspective of reef monitoring.
The GCRMN methods have been developed to provide a systematic snapshot of the ecosystem health of coral reefs and, when repeated through time, insight into temporal trends in reef condition. Based on the conclusions of a retrospective analysis of trends in reef health over the past decades, GCRMN members have agreed that there is great value in coordinating and standardizing future monitoring efforts. To date, Caribbean regional monitoring efforts often collect non-overlapping types of data about coral reefs, or the efforts use non-comparable methods for describing similar parts of the reef ecosystem. The goal of this document is to define a set of data and data collection techniques that will be used by Caribbean GCRMN members. These methods reflect long-standing, vetted scientific protocols and provide a compromise between practical applicability and ease of comparison between existing methods and long-term datasets.
The GCRMN 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 and (4) recruitment of reef-building corals, (5) abundance of key macro-invertebrate species, and (6) water quality. These elements provide an overview of the current condition of the coral reef ecosystem as well as an indication of likely future trajectories. GCRMN recognizes that by collecting information about these elements across multiple locations, with regular re-sampling through time, it will be possible to more knowingly describe the status of coral reef health in the Caribbean and to assess the effectiveness of local and regional management efforts.
These methods are designed to provide a basic and regional summary of reef health. Importantly, the elements that are included for GCRMN monitoring are not all-inclusive, and many partner members may be interested in collecting more detailed or spatially expansive data. However, the GCRMN methods should be viewed as a minimum set of measurements to provide a reliable snapshot of reef condition – data elements should not be selected individually but instead will be collected in sum. Given the inherent complexity of reef processes, a multidimensional description of coral reef health is essential to provide a coherent ‘baseline’ of coral reef condition in a dynamic and changing world.