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Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00539

Tracing Coral Reefs: A Citizen Science Approach in Mapping Coral Reefs to Enhance Marine Park Management Strategies

 Chai Ming Lau1*, Abdul Adzis Kee Alfian2,  Yang Amri Affendi3, Julian Hyde1,  Alvin Chelliah1, 4, Yun Sing Leong1, Yin Lee Low1, Putri Asma Megat Yusop5, Ven Thye Leong1, Yaman Mohd Shahir4,  Ai Gaik Lim6 and Zainal Noor Ikhwanie6
  • 1Reef Check Malaysia, Malaysia
  • 2SEAlutions Sdn Bhd, Malaysia
  • 3Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Malaya, Malaysia
  • 4Tioman Marine Conservation Group (TMCG), Reef Check Malaysia, Malaysia
  • 5Institute of Oceanography and Environment, University of Malaysia, Terengganu, Malaysia
  • 6Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Malaysia

Effective marine park management and protection of coral reefs can only happen if managers have adequate knowledge of reef health and area. However, obtaining such information is labour intensive and difficult with limited funding and time. Reef Check Malaysia was engaged by Department of Marine Parks Malaysia to map the coral reefs surrounding Tioman Island Marine Park and document health status and site specific threats. To achieve this, we utilized the Reef Check survey method, a simple, rapid and holistic standardized reef monitoring protocol based on scientific principles. This method is suitable where funds and time are limited. A total of 95 sites surrounding Tioman Island were surveyed with the assistance of certified Reef Check EcoDiver volunteers and representatives from local stakeholders. This citizen science approach proved successful and generated a baseline map revealing a difference in the health of coral reefs between the west and east sides of Tioman Island, where the West had < 25% live coral cover as compared to > 50% on the East. Combined with data on indicator fish and invertebrates, as well as human and natural impacts, the results suggest that Tioman Island should be separated into three distinctive conservation priority zones to enhance management strategies of this marine park. This is an example of an innovative way to engage and involve local stakeholders in planning conservation and management strategies.

Keywords: citizen science, Marine protected area (MPA) management, Reef check, Coral reef mapping, GIS - Geographic Information System

Received: 28 Feb 2019; Accepted: 16 Aug 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Lau, Kee Alfian, Affendi, Hyde, Chelliah, Leong, Low, Megat Yusop, Leong, Mohd Shahir, Lim and Noor Ikhwanie. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Chai Ming Lau, Reef Check Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, edmund@reefcheck.org.my