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Reef Check Australia

Research

Reef Check's research projects focus on monitoring the health of our coral reefs and how human impacts affect them. There are now Reef Check International teams in over 90 countries worldwide. Reef Check Australia's dataset is available (through Google Earth) to the general public, coral reef managers and scientists. Reef Check data provides an important "early warning" to coral reef managers about any changes on the Reef.

What is monitoring?

Monitoring is where we repeat surveys of the same coral reef sites through time. By monitoring a coral reef, we gain insight into how reefs respond to human and natural impacts, such as crown-of-thorns starfish and cyclones. The longer the study, the more valuable the information becomes to managers.

Reef Check Australia volunteers monitor coral reef sites that have been identified by the community as important. Reef Check monitoring sites include inshore reefs as well as key dive sites.

Reef Check's monitoring methods were designed to be simple and easy to use by anybody in the community after a little training. The goal of Reef Check monitoring is to determine how our reefs are changing through time. Where changes do occur, Reef Check acts as an 'early warning system' for coral reef managers.

See Monitoring for more detailed information on methodology.

Brief Overview of Reef Check Methods

If you are snorkeling or diving, you may see Reef Check volunteers surveying the reef. The tapes they lay on the reef are 100-metres long and mark a transect line which is divided into four 20m sections.

The Reef Check survey is divided into benthos (animals and plants found on the coral reef floor e.g. hard coral, soft coral and algae), fish, mobile invertebrates and coral reef impacts. Reef Check Australia volunteers collect these data by both recording observations as well as taking digital images.

Coral reef benthos is measured by recording the benthos type at specific intervals along the transect. This type of survey is called a "point-intercept transect" and it tells us what percentage of the sea floor is covered by each benthic organism.

Invertebrates (e.g. lobster and crown-of-thorns starfish), and fish (e.g. grouper and humphead wrasse) are counted within a belt that extends 2.5m to either side of the transect tape. This type of survey is called a "belt transect".

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