Home > Explore Data & Reports > Development of Benthic and Fish Monitoring Protocols for the Atlantic/Caribbean Biological Team: National Coral Reef Monitoring Program


Roberson, K., S. Viehman, and R. Clark. 2014. Development of Benthic and Fish Monitoring Protocols for the Atlantic/Caribbean Biological Team: National Coral Reef Monitoring Program. NOAA National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Silver Spring, MD. 48 pp.

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NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program is developing a national monitoring plan for all coral reefs under the US jurisdiction – including Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean. This National Coral Reef Monitoring Plan (NCRMP) builds upon a decade of work supported by CRCP and will focus on four monitoring themes: benthic community condition, fish community structure, climate, and socioeconomic condition. National monitoring of fish and benthos is divided between NMFS Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) and an Atlantic/Caribbean (Atl/Car) biological monitoring group, co-led by NOS National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC). This document focuses on the Atlantic/ Caribbean geographies of NCRMP. Monitoring of fish and coral/benthos are to have equal weighting in relation to survey design and survey allocation. Fish monitoring will follow extant jurisdictional monitoring programs, although techniques differ (point count method in the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas and belt transect in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Flower Garden Banks). Benthic monitoring will consist of a technique to assess percent cover of biotic and abiotic elements and a technique to quantify density and size frequency distribution of stony corals. 1 The Atlantic/ Caribbean working group consisting of NCRMP partner scientists from NOAA, the National Park Service (NPS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Nova Southeastern University (NOVA) held two workshops to provide guidance on the techniques needed to accomplish NCRMP goals and objectives. The working group concluded that NCRMP benthic metrics should at a minimum include techniques to estimate benthic cover and coral size/abundance. For benthic cover, the group strongly preferred in situ Line Point Intercept (LPI) transects, compared to photographs. LPI requires additional time in the water and does not provide permanent visual observations (digital images) for later analysis of emergent questions; however it does provide greater resolution of difficultto-distinguish categories (e.g. algal turfs) and avoids significant post-processing time, making results available more rapidly. Size/abundance data are derived from 10 x 1m belt transects, producing data on colony size, colony density, and population size structure, as well as additional information on coral community composition. LPI transects are conducted in concert with each fish transect. Coral community structure is surveyed on a subset of fish sites, based on statistical allocation formulas.

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