Volunteer-based coral reef monitoring: reliability of data, environmental education and implications for conservation

Branchini, Simone (2015) Volunteer-based coral reef monitoring: reliability of data, environmental education and implications for conservation, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Biodiversità ed evoluzione, 27 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/6884.
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Coral reefs are the most biodiverse ecosystems of the ocean and they provide notable ecosystem services. Nowadays, they are facing a number of local anthropogenic threats and environmental change is threatening their survivorship on a global scale. Large-scale monitoring is necessary to understand environmental changes and to perform useful conservation measurements. Governmental agencies are often underfunded and are not able of sustain the necessary spatial and temporal large-scale monitoring. To overcome the economic constrains, in some cases scientists can engage volunteers in environmental monitoring. Citizen Science enables the collection and analysis of scientific data at larger spatial and temporal scales than otherwise possible, addressing issues that are otherwise logistically or financially unfeasible. “STE: Scuba Tourism for the Environment” was a volunteer-based Red Sea coral reef biodiversity monitoring program. SCUBA divers and snorkelers were involved in the collection of data for 72 taxa, by completing survey questionnaires after their dives. In my thesis, I evaluated the reliability of the data collected by volunteers, comparing their questionnaires with those completed by professional scientists. Validation trials showed a sufficient level of reliability, indicating that non-specialists performed similarly to conservation volunteer divers on accurate transects. Using the data collected by volunteers, I developed a biodiversity index that revealed spatial trends across surveyed areas. The project results provided important feedbacks to the local authorities on the current health status of Red Sea coral reefs and on the effectiveness of the environmental management. I also analysed the spatial and temporal distribution of each surveyed taxa, identifying abundance trends related with anthropogenic impacts. Finally, I evaluated the effectiveness of the project to increase the environmental education of volunteers and showed that the participation in STEproject significantly increased both the knowledge on coral reef biology and ecology and the awareness of human behavioural impacts on the environment.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Branchini, Simone
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze biologiche, biomediche e biotecnologiche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Biodiversity; Biodiversity monitoring; Citizen science; Eco-tourism; Environmental awareness; Environmental education; Environmental monitoring; Red Sea; SCUBA divers; Volunteers in research.
Data di discussione
12 Maggio 2015

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