eCite Digital Repository

Reef Life Survey: establishing the ecological basis for conservation of shallow marine life


Edgar, GJ and Cooper, A and Baker, SC and Barker, W and Barrett, NS and Becerro, MA and Bates, AE and Brock, D and Ceccarelli, DM and Clausius, E and Davey, M and Davis, TR and Day, PB and Green, A and Griffiths, SR and Hicks, J and Hinojosa, IA and Jones, BK and Kininmonth, S and Larkin, MF and Lazzari, N and Lefcheck, JS and Ling, SD and Mooney, P and Oh, E and Perez-Matus, A and Pocklington, JB and Riera, R and Sanabria-Fernandez, JA and Seroussi, Y and Shaw, I and Shields, D and Shields, J and Smith, M and Soler, GA and Stuart-Smith, J and Turnbull, J and Stuart-Smith, RD, Reef Life Survey: establishing the ecological basis for conservation of shallow marine life, Biological Conservation, 252 Article 108855. ISSN 0006-3207 (2020) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108855


Reef Life Survey (RLS) provides a new model for ecological monitoring through training experienced recreational divers in underwater visual census methods to the level of skilled scientists. Detail produced is similar to that of programs with professional scientific teams, at low cost to allow global coverage. RLS differs from most other citizen science initiatives in its emphasis on rigorous training and data quality rather than open participation, selectively involving the most skilled and committed members. Volunteers participate primarily because they appreciate the close relationship with scientists, other divers, and managers, and see their efforts directly contributing to improved environmental outcomes. RLS works closely with Australian management agencies, scheduling annual events at core monitoring sites associated with 10 inshore marine protected areas Australia-wide. Surveys of 12 offshore Australian Marine Parks (AMPs) are realized through 2-4 week voyages in a sailing catamaran crewed by volunteers. Across the AMP network, RLS surveys have quantified densities of fishes, mobile invertebrates, macroalgae and corals at 350 shallow coral reef sites (180 sites surveyed on two or more occasions), providing an understanding of (i) population changes amongst threatened species including sea snakes, (ii) responses of fish and invertebrate populations following fisheries closures, (iii) ecosystem-wide impacts of marine heat-waves, and (iv) the extent that AMPs spanning the network comprehensively encompass national coral reef biodiversity. This scientist/volunteer/manager collaboration could be greatly expanded globally (presently 3537 sites in 53 countries).

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Reef Life Survey, citizen science, MPAs, climate change
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Marine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Edgar, GJ (Professor Graham Edgar)
UTAS Author:Cooper, A (Miss Antonia Cooper)
UTAS Author:Baker, SC (Associate Professor Sue Baker)
UTAS Author:Barrett, NS (Associate Professor Neville Barrett)
UTAS Author:Clausius, E (Miss Ella Clausius)
UTAS Author:Ling, SD (Dr Scott Ling)
UTAS Author:Oh, E (Miss Lizzi Oh)
UTAS Author:Shields, J (Mr Joe Shields)
UTAS Author:Soler, GA (Mr German Soler Alarcon)
UTAS Author:Stuart-Smith, J (Dr Jemina Stuart-Smith)
UTAS Author:Stuart-Smith, RD (Dr Rick Stuart-Smith)
ID Code:141769
Year Published:2020
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (FT190100599)
Web of Science® Times Cited:24
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2020-11-18
Last Modified:2021-02-22

Repository Staff Only: item control page