Our ReefCI team have developed a coral reef monitoring protocol that is more focused on the unique marine ecosystem of Southern Belize. Still employing simple techniques that non-scientific divers can easily master, we aim to collect scientifically robust data allowing us to monitor and report on our coral reefs health. ReefCI Check is a comprehensive assessment of the health of coral reefs. We have fine tuned the “indicator species” observed based on the ecological and economical value and sensitivity to anthropogenic disturbances, specific to the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve. A new aspect to our methodology is counting the male and female Parrot fish, while still including Groupers, Surgeon fish, Butterfly fish, Grunts, Snappers, and the invasive Lionfish. Invertebrates, coral bleaching/disease, trash and coral damage will be recorded and the substrate composition thoroughly mapped.
What will you be doing?
The Team Scientist or Team Leader lays the 100m transect line. There are 3 buddy teams, one for fish, one for invertebrates and one for substrates. The fish survey is conducted first in order that the fish do not get disturbed prior to the survey. One buddy times whilst the other counts the indicator fish in 5 metre cube areas for 1.5 minutes. This is then repeated along the line. The next team surveys invertebrates with one buddy on each side of the line. They count the invertebrates inside a 2.5 metre width on each side of the transect line. This requires looking under rocks and ledges and into holes in order to find the species. The 3rd team counts the substrates. One buddy has a plumb line with a small weight on the end; the diver drops the line onto markings at each 50cm (.05m) interval and gives a hand sign to their buddy who then records the data onto a slate. The Team Scientist conducts a site description which includes any coral damage, anchor damage, disease etc. Some of the fascinating marine life you will encounter along the way includes whale sharks and lobsters.