Submitted by Reef Check Italy's Gianfranco Rossi
The Reef Check protocol was designed following the recognition that there were no adequate data to establish a “baseline” of the health of the world’s coral reefs. The greatest advantage of the protocol was the involvement of volunteer scuba divers, led by marine biologists, who could make possible the collection of data otherwise not obtainable.
The first global survey of coral reefs took place in 1997. Subsequently, the protocol has received important acknowledgments both in terms of the number of surveys collected and in data quality; many researchers have confirmed their value and published works citing the database of Reef Check. The protocol has proved to be very effective not only in the involvement of passionate volunteers eager to cooperate in the preservation of their favorite reefs, but also of young students and graduates in marine biology who have been able to take advantage of a suitable method to perfect their skills as specialists of the marine environment. Very often degree courses end without a student acquiring firsthand knowledge on coral reefs although they possess a sound basis to understand the functioning of these unique ecosystems.
The expeditions organized by Reef Check Italia Onlus at the Coral Eye Research Outpost on the island of Bangka (Indonesia) have confirmed the value of this experience in their training of young Italian marine biologists. By using three different kinds of transects, participants have been able to learn the useful basics to measure the percentage of seabed cover by different substrate types, like live and dead corals, sponges, ascidians or algae, and to identify several kinds of fishes and invertebrates. These are useful indicator species of impacts both of anthropogenic or natural origin.
During the two expeditions held so far, the most recent being in October 2013, data were collected that have provided for the first time a baseline of the health status of the coral reefs of Bangka. The involvement of Reef Check Indonesia and their Program Manager Derta Prabuning, has also inspired the launch of a partnership that in the future could lead to the involvement of the local population in education programs aimed at the formation of young Indonesians to gain awareness of the value of their reefs. With a more aware generation we could intervene and prevent the practices causing destruction of reefs that are still widely used throughout the area.
For more information on the activities of Reef Check Italy, visit http://www.reefcheckitalia.it/
Franco, Derta, Massimo, Eva