We worked with territorial and federal partners to develop an integrated system for monitoring coral reef ecosystem health in the U.S. Caribbean. We integrated existing data into a comprehensive report, identified monitoring gaps, and evaluated protocols. Meta-analyses across multiple long-term monitoring data sets helped us assess environmental change.
Why We Care
Marine monitoring is critical to the effective management of the economically and culturally important Caribbean coral reef ecosystems, particularly in areas that are impacted by human activities. Monitoring provides information about ecosystem status and trends and can be used to assess the performance of management actions.
In the U.S. Caribbean, marine monitoring is conducted by many organizations, measuring a wide variety of factors, using many different methods. To be more effective, monitoring programs should be coordinated and targeted to support coastal management decision-making. Data should be shared, and results communicated to the relevant organizations. Efforts to ensure that monitoring is well coordinated, integrated, and effectively communicated can leverage the limited resources available to research teams as well as marine and coastal managers.
What We Found
This was the first analysis of its kind to amass comprehensively coral reef monitoring and surveillance activities in the US Virgin Islands. We identified and documented gaps in the spatial distribution of the sampling maps and summary graphs. We also identified gaps in the range of elements measured, particularly with regard to well- known threats, such as land-based sources of pollution, and from emerging threats to coral reefs, such as climate change.
What We Did
We synthesized existing data to support territorial and federal partners in developing an integrated system for monitoring coral reef ecosystem health in the U.S. Caribbean. We evaluated and integrated current and future coral reef ecosystem monitoring activities into a comprehensive long-term assessment and monitoring program.
NCCOS coordinated the effort and:
- Compiled summary information on marine monitoring activities in the U.S. Caribbean and made the information available to the public
- Conducted a spatial and time-oriented analysis of monitoring activities to find gaps in coverage
- Evaluated possibilities and limitations for data synthesis and the ability of current monitoring programs to address resource management objectives and strategies
- Coordinated discussions about strategies and plan workshops to advance a coordinated regional marine-monitoring program.
A database for partners to enter and share information was developed, along with a question-driven Web-based mapserver. We wrote the first comprehensive monitoring report for the USVI, summarizing the data and showing locations of sampling sites.
Recommendations and a strategy are now needed to support the implementation of a well-coordinated and integrated marine monitoring program for the U.S. Caribbean. Marine monitoring data should be collected and served at three-year intervals to ensure that records are kept up to date. Additional efforts are required to examine the utility of meta-analyses across multiple long-term monitoring data sets to make statements on environmental change.