CERF uses a new marine habitat assessment technique, the Benthic Ecological Assessment for Marginal Reefs (BEAMR), in order to determine the health of coral reefs.
This underwater photograph was taken during a CERF coral reef 'health' assessment in the southeast Gulf of Mexico. The photo shows a healthy stony coral colony (Solenastrea hyades) growing along the reef's ledge with a porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus) swimming by.
Within the marine scientific community, various approaches attempt to characterize coral reef habitats worldwide in terms of statistical evaluation. Coral reefs consist of essential substrate-building components that fulfill the niches of many key marine species. Among those marine species are a wide array of organisms: from reef fish that help clean and maintain the habitat, to invertebrate hard and soft corals that provide a structural framework for the reef, to the benthic macroalgae that supply food to green sea turtles. At the Coastal Education and Research Foundation (CERF), we believe that the overall health of the reef community relies on a synergistic relationship between all these components and is dependent upon adverse influences being avoided or minimized.
The Benthic Ecological Assessment for Marginal Reefs (BEAMR) is a universal assessment procedure which helps to quantify the 'health' condition of a coral reef habitat over time. Coral reefs, due to their complexity as an ecosystem, have presented problems to marine researchers in the past when trying to assess the performance of the habitat through statistical evaluation. Previous methodologies such as the Atlantic & Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment method (AGRRA) and the Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity Program (CARICOMP), while being useful, were created specifically for reefs within the Caribbean Sea, and are biased towards one or two main indictor organisms (e.g., stony corals). However, being that most reefs worldwide are considered marginal habitats, which describes them as having an impoverished community condition with biogeographic limits, the BEAMR method offers a more comprehensive analysis of all benthic functional groups defining the reef. BEAMR assessments and analysis have provided CERF researchers with accurate in situ documentation of all aspects within the benthic coral communities, allowing conservation managers to more effectively protect these marine habitats. Coral reef resources are under a constant threat from both human and natural forces, making habitat assessment protocols, such as the BEAMR method, an important tool in the worldwide conservation of coral reef communities.
For more information about the BEAMR methodology, please click the links below to the following articles published in the Journal of Coastal Research (JCR):
Makowski, C. and Keyes, P., 2011. Using the Benthic Assessment for Marginal Reefs (BEAMR) Method to Quantify Nearshore Reef Conditions in the Southeast Gulf of Mexico. Journal of Coastal Research, 27(3), 428-440.
To learn more about CERF's marine habitat assessment studies,