The news is buzzing about a study on the Great Barrier Reef that shows over a 50% loss in coral cover since 1985 (De’ath et al 2012), conducted by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Wollongong. Long term monitoring is crucial for coral reefs, or we are not even alerted to these kinds of changes. Monitoring can also highlight patterns and correlations that can be taken into consideration in planning management strategies.
The MesoAmerican reef is the second largest coral reef in the world, and the Great Barrier Reef study not only highlights issues that need to be addressed there, but also at the MesoAmerican reef, where less information is available. The Marine Passive Acoustic Monitoring program I launched in 2010 provides a steady stream of data on the conditions of the coral reef, and expanding this monitoring network throughout the reef would be a good start.
In 2011, an Eco-Audit of MesoAmerican Reef management gave it a 2.7/5 — definitely room for improvement.