Environmental Conservation

THEMATIC SECTION: Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM): designing the next generation (Part 1)

Assessing the quality of seagrass data collected by community volunteers in Moreton Bay Marine Park, Australia

PAUL G. FINNa1 c1, NICOLA S. UDYa2, SIMON J. BALTAISa3, KEIRA PRICEa1 and LOUISE COLESa1

a1 Seagrass-Watch Moreton Bay, Queensland Conservation Council, 166 Ann Street, Brisbane, QLD 4000, Australia

a2 Moreton Bay Region, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment and Resource Management, PO Box 5178, Manly, QLD 4179, Australia

a3 Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, Bayside Branch, PO Box 427, Capalaba, QLD 4157, Australia

SUMMARY

Volunteer-collected data have become widely used, largely because of a perception of cost efficiency, however, the quality of these data is often questioned. This paper analyses the quality of visual estimates of seagrass cover collected by trained volunteers in Moreton Bay (Australia) which has c. 25 000 ha of seagrass habitat. Seagrass was routinely monitored by trained volunteers at 51 sites (50 × 50 m area of intertidal flat) using standardized protocols. Volunteers walked three transects at low tide and assessed the percentage of substrate covered by seagrass within quadrats (50 × 50 cm in area) using photographic guides. Of 33 samples (quadrats) taken at each site, nine (27%) were photographed and later scored by coordinating scientists. The visual estimation of per cent seagrass cover by volunteers was highly correlated with that of scientists and can therefore be used as a reliable source of base-line information about seagrasses in Moreton Bay. The qualities of this successful community-based monitoring programme include expert scientific and multi-organizational involvement, simple methods and result dissemination.

(Received August 27 2009)

(Accepted January 27 2010)

(Online publication May 13 2010)

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence: Dr Paul Finn Current address: RPS Group, PO Box 1559, Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006, Australia e-mail: paul.finn@rpsgroup.com.au