Scientists to stanardise coral reef monitoring

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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The Port Royal Marine Lab is home this week to conservationists from across the region who will be learning how to assess the socio-economic value of their work with a view to getting more buy-in from stakeholder groups, governments, and the public in general.

They will also be schooled in standardising coral reef monitoring and measuring.

The week-long workshop is called GCRMN-Caribbean Capacity Building for Coral Reef and Human Dimensions Monitoring Within the Wider Caribbean and is a follow-on from a similar event in Discovery Bay last year. It is being spearheaded by the Global Coral Reef Management Network with partnership from UN Environment-Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP), Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Regional Activity Centre, the University of the West Indies, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Centro Nacional de Areas Protegidas, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

As environmental data manager at the Caribbean Coastal Data Centre in the Centre for Marine Sciences at UWI Marcia Creary Ford explained it, the lack of standardised monitoring protocol in the region was exposed in 2014 when noted coral scientist Jeremy Jackson undertook the Status of the Coral Reefs of the Caribbean report.

“[He] realised that we didn't really have standardised monitoring throughout the region so we weren't able to actually compare sites because [everybody] used different methods and different levels of integrity so some data couldn't be used, some data didn't have the supporting meta-data. So he recommended that we try and come up with some standardised way of monitoring within the region so that when we come to look at the Status of the Coral Reefs in the Caribbean again, we can have all of this data collected using standardised protocol,” she told the Jamaica Observer at the opening of the workshop yesterday.

So GCRMN developed a set of guidelines which it is asking different monitoring institutions to adopt.

“The advantage of that is that for each institution they would have collected data of a particular standard, they can compare a location or locations over time, and they can also compare locations within the region,” Creary Ford said.

She added that the workshop was hosted on the south coast in an attempt to widen the sphere of training since the previous intervention was done on the north coast, in Discovery Bay.

“We also thought we should focus on the Palisadoes-Port Royal Protected Area because there wasn't an established monitoring programme within this area, and also we needed to focus more training in the staff of NEPA so this is heavily attended by NEPA and Port Royal Marine Lab staff, in addition to people from other islands,” the data manager said.

Academic coordinator of the lab, Dr Suzanne Palmer reported that the workshop should bring coordination and efficiency to monitor.

“One of the big things for Jamaica is linking what's going on with the scientists with what's going on with NEPA so that we can pool our resources when there are funds for managing and measuring. At the moment, we're sort of half duplicating and then there are some gaps, so the benefit of this workshop is that in the same room you would get people together to [ensure we are all on the same page].

“The idea is that eventually we'll have pockets of people all around the island who are trained in this one method,” Palmer added.

Senior public education and community outreach officer at NEPA Ava Tomlinson told the Observer that the agency's participants were fielded from the ecosystems, protected areas, and public education divisions.

“It means that we are going to be exposed to other methodologies that are being used and that we can incorporate them into our work so that the standards that the agency uses will be in line with the standards of other agencies,” she said of the value of the training workshop to NEPA.

On the subject of the socio-economic valuation of the coral conservation work, UNEP-CEP programme officer Christopher Corbin couldn't have been more pleased.

“I am heartened that we have come to bring the bio-physical together with the socio-economic, because what politicians respond to is votes; it's people; it's jobs. If we only look at it in a narrow way — conservation for conservation sake — then we will not get the political buy-in,” he told the opening session of the workshop.

In addition to looking at the current status and future trends for coral reefs in the Caribbean, and the social and economic value of coral reefs to improve their future management and decisions on the use of coastal areas, the workshop is also expected to raise awareness about the importance of coral reef conservation to the fisheries and tourism sectors in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region.

It will include dives in the Port Royal cays.

— Kimone Thompson




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