Citizen science in seagrass monitoring
Successful management of coastal environmental requires regular monitoring of the status and condition of natural resources. Early detection of change allows coastal management agents to adjust management practices and or take remedial action sooner and thus to avert more serious changes and impacts. Seagrass meadows are highly productive coastal habitats that provide important ecological services, particularly an ideal resource to monitor the status and condition of natural resources. The high species richness, their versatile services, their civinity of coastal uses, such as aquaculture, as well as their sensitivity to changes in water quality make seagrasses an important species to help determine the overall health of coastal ecosystem.
Studies from ECOLOC scientists have shown that seagrass meadows have been declining over the past few decades. This is particularly severe in South-Eastern Asia. Monitoring the status and condition of natural resources, is a long-term task, which often involves the engagement of those stakeholders that are permanently present near the relevant sites, from research, communities, resource users, or agencies. However, the necessary knowledge and skills are still lacking to adequately monitor seagrass meadows and interpret the results. In order to empower these stakeholders to conduct monitoring activities on their own, a Manual for monitoring seagrass habitat has developed cooperatively between ECOLOC partners and additional partners from Hainan.
In March 2019, 15 volunteers and nine rangers from local nature reserves took part in a training workshop organized by ZMT, Hainan Duotan Wetland Research Institute and Hainan Bird Watching Organization. The participants learned about seagrass ecology and survey methodology. Two monitoring sites have since been established, where, at each site, several 50cm x 50cm quadrats are placed along three parallel 50m transects and surveyed for seagrass diversity, cover and canopy height. The monitoring activities will be conducted by a total of 26 local citizens in regular intervals for the next two years. ZMT’s knowledge exchange expert Dr. Jialin Zhang was also went on local radio to further spread the word on these activities.
This ‘Citizen Science’ project integrates public outreach and scientific data collection to enhance public knowledge about the value of seagrasses. It can provide the interested public with an opportunity to assist in research, it can also help scientists to integrate scientific and local knowledge and engage local stakeholders to implement conservation measures.