July 17, 2012

Reef Monitoring Thrives in the Red Sea


By Stephan Moldzio, Reef Check Team Scientist & EcoDiver Trainer

Since we started our Reef Monitoring Programme with Red Sea Diving Safari (RSDS) in 2009, we have run four EcoDiver courses with 19 participants from ten different countries. Every participant has successfully been certified as a Reef Check EcoDiver. With this dynamic team we have conducted 20 Reef Check surveys at the ten most important RSDS dive sites. Each location has been surveyed twice along two depth contours (3.5 m & 8.5 m depth), so all in all we have contributed 40 data sets that have been included in the international database at Reef Check HQ, which currently includes 8,513 surveys in 99 countries & territories.

As in previous years, participants appreciated the opportunity to learn and apply the Reef Check method to monitor the abundance of specific reef organisms, and human impacts that reflect the condition of the coral reef ecosystem. A particular motivation for participating in Reef Check is that volunteers are contributing to real science by collecting valuable data about the health status of coral reefs. The data is an important tool for local reef managers and decision makers, as well as scientific publications such as the “Status of Coral Reefs in the World” report. This year, everyone was very keen to start with the field work, so our group conducted five surveys at Marsa Egla, Elphinstone, Marsa Gabel El Rosas, and two sites at Wadi Lahami.


Within our 40 surveys, we found a total coral coverage (hard and soft corals) of 50.8% ± 4.3% compared with a value of 50.5% ± 3.1% in 2009/2010. At 3.5m depth we found coral cover of 52.2% ± 3.7% and at 8.5m depth 49.7% ± 4.8%. For all non-living substrate categories – rock, rubble, sand, silt, and recently killed coral – we recorded an average percentage cover of 47.6% ± 4.6% for all surveys. In 2009 and 2010 we found 47.7% ± 3.1% non-living cover.

The 2012 fish counts remained relative to those conducted in 2009 and 2010. Again, the most abundant indicator group were butterflyfish with 6.0 ± 1.5 individuals/500 m³, followed by parrotfish (2.5 ± 0.9 Ind./500 m³). The average abundance of groupers was 1.3 ± 0.4 Ind./500 m³, a slightly increased value with respect to 2009 and 2010 (0.7 ± 0.3 Ind./500 m³).

With regard to coral cover, our Reef Check surveys indicate that reefs at the ten surveyed sites remain generally healthy. Sewage and other pollution, as well as sedimentation from soil erosion do not seem to be a problem. We did not observe any coral diseases, excessive nutrient indicator algae, or sponges at the surveyed sites. Coral recruitment was good, especially at places with anchor damage where new coral colonies were beginning to grow and build up the next generation.

Perhaps the most striking finding was that the results were quite similar to the previous years’ surveys, possibly due to the application of permanent transects.

To read the full Marsa Shagra Annual Report, please click here.