The marine environment is suffering from a variety of human impacts such as over-fishing, discarded rubbish, chemical pollution, sedimentation, bleaching and introduced pests. The big problem faced by managers trying to deal with these impacts is that it is very difficult to know where conservation intervention is most useful because little reliable information exists on the nature and true scale of these problems.
Reef Life Survey (RLS) aims to improve biodiversity conservation and the sustainable management of marine resources through the production of high-quality survey information at spatial and temporal scales beyond those possible by scientific dive teams (which have to work with increasingly limited resources). It does this through the skills of experienced and motivated recreational SCUBA divers, as well as through partnerships with management agencies and a steering committee comprising managers, scientists and recreational divers (see RLS Steering Committee). RLS thus represents a dynamic cooperation between scientists, marine managers and recreational SCUBA divers, such that the skills and resources available for collecting, analysing, interpreting and effectively using broad-scale, sub-tidal biodiversity information are maximised.
RLS trains only suitably experienced and committed SCUBA divers in scientific monitoring of reef habitats using visual census. These divers then conduct official surveys as a regular part of their diving life, and contribute their valuable data to a broad-scale dataset. Scientific rigor of data is maintained with ongoing assistance by scientists. The data are freely available to the public for non-profit purposes, so not only managers, but also groups such as local dive clubs or schools may use these data to look at changes over time in their own local reefs. By making data freely available and through this website, RLS aims to raise broader community awareness of marine conservation issues.
Seed funding for RLS was provided by the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) Program, an Australian Government initiative supporting world class, public good research. The initial focus of RLS is on the Australian marine environment, although data collected by RLS trained divers from sites surveyed elsewhere globally are also utilised. Through the long term, RLS is expected to play a key role in the management and conservation of the world’s marine biodiversity and resources.
Reef Life Survey is a program of the People and Parks Foundation