Long-Term Monitoring Program of the Ningaloo Marine Park: Survey of Benthic Cover and Status of the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia
Myers, Jeffrey D.
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Coral reefs provide a unique setting for a variety of diverse organisms. Establishing an environment in which these organisms can be truly protected is a key to creating a successful marine park. However, to achieve its full potential, a marine park must be fully monitored and understood. The Ningaloo Marine Park was established in 1987 on the west coast of West em Australia. In May of 1998, the first comprehensive long-term monitoring program was started. Twenty-one permanent sites along 300 km of the coast were established with three 50-m transects per site. Each was filmed and analyzed using the Line Intercept Technique to estimate the percent hard coral cover along the reef and to see how the coral cover related to latitude and the effects of Drupella comus, a natural coral predator. These coral cover estimates provide a baseline with which to measure the change in health of the reef. Observed was a trend for greater live hard coral cover in the southern sections of Ningaloo Reef with more dead coral found in the north. Impacts from anthropogenic sources and from D. comus were noted and previous studies detailing past D. comus damage were compared with the 1998 data. Overall, our data have shown that the reef, while recovering from current and past D. comus outbreaks in the north, now remains relatively healthy and undisturbed by human impact.