Conservation staff trained in coral reef monitoring techniques


10-April-2017

Coral reefs ‒ alongside sea grass beds, mangroves, lagoons and banks ‒ are key marine habitats in the outer islands of the Seychelles. Corals accumulate carbon and build atolls, and the heath of coral reefs is thus of primary importance for the integrity and long-term future of the islands, particularly in the face of rising sea levels and other threats associated with climate change.

Ecological monitoring of coral reefs is critical if we are to detect changes in the health of coral reefs over time. To this end, the Island Conservation Society (ICS) have domesticated monitoring protocols to be used across the inner and outer islands of Seychelles. The monitoring protocols are drawn from the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) and from a regional manual produced by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), making the monitoring information compatible with national, regional and global datasets.

The coral reef monitoring protocol not only looks at benthic factors (coral cover versus sea grass), but also fish assemblages, macro-invertebrates (urchins, sea cucumbers etc.), coral health (bleaching or diseases) and other features. In addition to detecting long term incremental change in key reef variables, the monitoring protocol also records sudden events that could cause high coral mortality, such as coral bleaching, cyclones, or outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS).

A week-long training course was held in March 2017 at Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay hotel for six ICS conservation staff from Silhouette, Aride, Desroches and Alphonse islands. The training consisted of both theoretical classroom sessions and practical dive sessions supported by the Underwater Centre. The training was led by Dr David Obura, an expert in coral reef research, and his assistant Mishal Gudka. 

Pep Nogues, ICS conservation officer on Alphonse, stated “It is not often that we, who live permanently in these remote outer islands, have the opportunity to discuss matters that are affecting our reefs. This extraordinary opportunity has helped us to enhance coral reef monitoring techniques, gain confidence in coral identification and obtain a better-understanding of our complex coral reef ecosystems.”

The development of the protocol for the monitoring of coral reefs and the training in its use was funded by the GOS-UNDP-GEF project ‘Expansion and strengthening of the protected area subsystem of the Outer Islands of Seychelles and its integration into the broader land and seascape’.  The aim of the project is to promote the conservation and sustainable use of terrestrial and marine biodiversity in the Seychelles’ outer islands by expanding the protected areas system and strengthening protected area management, supported by broad-scale ecosystem planning and sustainable land management activities to conserve ecosystem functions. 

For more information on the project, please visit : http://www.pcusey.sc/index.php/pcu-projects/ongoing/141-oi-project http://www.islandconservationseychelles.com/gos-undp-gef-outer-islands-project.html

 

 

 

Contributed by GOS-UNDP-GEF Programme Coordination Unit

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